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DOUAR FERDOUINE: Britain’s Russ Cook (C-L) runs, with supporters who joined him for the final leg of the 16,000km challenge to run the length of Africa from South Africa’s Cape Agulhas to Tunisia’s Cape Angela to raise money for charity, in town of Ghazela, north east of Tunis. – AFP
DOUAR FERDOUINE: Britain’s Russ Cook (C-L) runs, with supporters who joined him for the final leg of the 16,000km challenge to run the length of Africa from South Africa’s Cape Agulhas to Tunisia’s Cape Angela to raise money for charity, in town of Ghazela, north east of Tunis. – AFP

Briton completes epic run the full length of Africa

CAPE ANGELA: Russ Cook on Sunday completed a mammoth quest to run the length of Africa having overcome health scares, visa troubles and even an armed robbery. The Briton arrived late in the afternoon at Cape Angela in Tunisia, where a sculpture marks the “northernmost point of the African continent”. The epic endeavour saw him live up to his “hardest geezer (man)” nickname to complete the more than 16,000-kilometre (9,900-mile) journey. Cook believes he is the first person ever to run the entire length of the continent.

The 27-year-old set off from South Africa’s most southerly point on April 22 last year. By the time he crossed the finish line in Tunisia, he had taken more than 19 million steps in 16 countries, running the equivalent of 385 marathons in 351 days. He crossed mountains, tropical forests and deserts, including the mighty Sahara. Cook’s efforts have raised over £550,000 ($695,000) for the Running Charity and for Sandblast, which raises awareness for the indigenous Saharawis of Western Sahara.

For the final leg of his run, the endurance athlete from Worthing in southern England was joined by supporters. “Wanted to open up the last day of this project to anyone and everyone who has been watching and supporting,” he said on X, formerly Twitter. “Come and run the last marathon, the last half, 10km, five kilometres, one kilometre. Whatever you fancy,” he added. The end of the challenge was set to be celebrated with a party at a hotel in Bizerte, Africa’s northernmost city.

A performance by the rock band Soft Play, formerly known as Slaves, was planned. “Can’t quite believe it but we’ve managed to pull off Soft Play playing the finish line party in Tunisia,” he said.

“Get your daiquiris ready girls and boys this is gonna be mega,” he added. Cook joked throughout his journey that he craved a strawberry daiquiri. It was not only the running that challenged the extreme runner. In Angola, he and his team were robbed at gunpoint, while Cook’s difficulties in obtaining a visa for Algeria nearly derailed the entire project. In the Sahara, he ran at night to escape the searing heat and scorching sun. In Nigeria, doctors told him to cut back on his daily mileage because of pains he was suffering. Cook still kept going.

Before setting off last year he said his approach to life was to throw “everything and the kitchen sink” at it. “I’m a totally normal bloke, so if I can do this, hopefully people can apply this to their own lives in whichever way they choose,” he said.

“For 99 percent of people, it’s not going to be running across Africa, but it might look like chasing their dreams a little bit more,” he added. Last week he described the past year as “the toughest in my life but an immense honour”. “We have met incredible people in every single country we’ve been to that have welcomed us with love and kindness. The human spirit is a beautiful thing,” he said. — AFP

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