Health & Fitness | August 29, 2023 12:06 pm

The One Runner You Should Be Following on Strava Right Now

Russ Cook, aka @hardestgeezer, is currently attempting to run the entire length of Africa

A man running across a desert in Tunisia.
Deserts, wildlife, geopolitical unrest...one runner is attempting an incredibly difficult quest.
AFP via Getty Images

There’s a running joke in the running community about people who caption their Strava efforts with descriptors like “easy one” or “recovery day”…despite the obvious fact that they ran pretty fast or pretty far.

Suffice to say, peacocking is alive and well on the platform. But we all might as well concede defeat — no one’s going to upload anything as impressive or memorable as an “easy” Russ Cook run this year.

The 26-year-old British runner is currently on a mission to become the first person ever to run the full length of Africa.

How to Get Into “Himalayan Shape”

A training blueprint for those with zero plans of actually climbing Everest

#ProjectAfrica

By “length of Africa,” Cook is referring to a full south-to-north journey. He uploaded his first #ProjectAfrica effort on April 22, covering 31.47 miles — at a 9:49-mile pace — from the tip of South Africa up into the heart of the country. The ultimate goal is to finish at the Mediterranean Sea, at the northernmost terminus of Tunisia.

It’s an unthinkable adventure — and especially for Cook, who said in a recent interview that he spent his adolescent years gambling and drinking in Brighton clubs, and once took three hours to run 12 miles. That’s a far cry from the version of Cook who ran a half marathon in the mountains of the Canary Islands in 90 minutes last Christmas.

It was a pilgrimage to Iten, Kenya (the capital of the long-distance running world), and a chance meeting with an Italian cyclist who was riding nonstop around the globe, that convinced Cook he should be chasing bigger and better things. So he dedicated his life to adventure running.

How’s It Going?

This trip will test that dedication and then some. Cook has already run through lion territory, survived the Namib Desert and been robbed at gunpoint in Angola. He and his crew of three others are currently crawling through the Republic of the Congo, which is not as notoriously dangerous as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but every peril is still on the table.

Add that to the fact that Cook is running somewhere between 20 and 30 miles a day, while covering thousands of feet of elevation on a foot that looks like this…and well, you can see why no one’s ever tried this before. (There were enough headaches just securing visas and getting their van to South Africa in the first place.)

@hardestgeezer

If you’re inclined to cheer Cook on throughout his journey, or just fulfill the sheer curiosity of watching someone cross the Sahara in a pair of Hokas (they’re a sponsor), his Strava is “Russ Cook,” and his social accounts are under the tag @hardestgeezer. (That includes his YouTube, where the crew is uploading some great content.)

While Cook’s original goal was to finish by the end of this year, for a total of 240 days on his feet in Africa, he’s admitted in recent Twitter posts that the journey is going to have to stretch into 2024. If he manages it, though, what an achievement it will be. Nothing “easy” about it in the slightest.

We should add that Cook’s effort is in support of the Running Charity (which brings the sport to young people who’ve endured homelessness) and WaterAid (which provides safe, clean water to communities around the world). You can learn more and/or donate here.