Britain's Hardest Geezer Russ Cook Ran the Length of Africa in 352-day Run

Russ Cook, from Worthing, West Sussex, finished his gruelling 352-day run from South Africa to Tunisia on Sunday. But claims he is the first to run the length of Africa have been contested by the World Runners Association.


A Briton's claim to be the first person to run the length of Africa has been contested by a Danish man, who says he beat him to it 14 years ago.

Russ Cook, from Worthing, West Sussex, finished his gruelling 352-day run from South Africa to Tunisia on Sunday, travelling close to 16,000km (9,941 miles) on foot.

But Jesper Kenn Olsen, a 52-year-old Danish ultrarunner, said the 'Hardest Geezer's' claims he is the first to run across the continent are wrong, as he completed a similar journey in 2010.

A member of the World Runners Association (WRA), Mr Olsen ran from Taba, Egypt to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

He set off on 28 December, 2008, and finished in March 2010 after running close to 13,000km (7,948 miles) over 434 days.

Briton runs entire length of Africa

While Mr Olsen was full of praise for Mr Cook's "incredible achievement," he added "this is more about getting the facts correct".

"For me, it's not so much about whether I'm the first or second or what have you, because obviously, for us, the main thing is the runs around the world," the runner said.

"It's much more important that you keep the honour than whether you are number one, two or three. However, as far as I understand, he's definitely the fastest."

Jesper Kenn Olsen, an ultramarathon runner who ran the length of Africa from South Africa to Egypt between 2008 and 2010. Pic: PA
Image:Jesper Kenn Olsen ran the length of Africa 14 years before Russ Cook. Pic: PA

The WRA - comprised of seven members who successfully circumnavigated the world on foot - also claimed to have tried to contact Mr Cook to say that Mr Olsen and two other members, Serge Girard from France and Tony Mangan from Ireland, had also completed the challenge previously.

The 'Hardest Geezer' set off from the southernmost point of South Africa, Cape Agulhas. He also finished further north than Mr Olsen, ran nearly 2,000 more miles and beat his time by 82 days.

Mr Olsen, who only learnt about the 'Hardest Geezer' two weeks ago, also said the "hallmark" of ultramarathon running is "that you always recognise who came before".


Russ Cook's route as he becomes the first person to run the length of Africa
Russ Cook's route from South Africa to Tunisia, which he managed in 352 days of running.

Speaking to Good Morning Britain about the WRA's statements, Mr Cook said: "I haven't heard anything about it to be fair.

"But there's plenty of people before me who have done lots of big runs and kudos to all of them because they're big challenges, so nothing but respect really."