Russ Cook - 'Hardest Geezer' Africa challenge, huge social media following and kidnapping

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Russ Cook is known as the 'Hardest Geezer' for his ambitious physical feats, such as running the length of Africa.

The profile of British athlete Russ Cook continues to rise as his ambitious challenge to run the length of Africa nears its epic conclusion.

The social media star is preparing to cross the Sahara Desert as he nears the north of the continent, 278 days into the challenge, which started last year. Followers have been glued to his progress across social media channels as he navigates injury, robbery, kidnapping and more.

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Also known as the 'Hardest Geezer', Cook is the face of a new TikTok advertisement hitting television screens. Here's all you need to know about the impressive runner.

Who is 'Hardest Geezer' Russ Cook?

Russ Cook is a British ultramarathon runner hailing from Worthing in Sussex. He is known for his extreme physical challenges and has become known as the 'Hardest Geezer' because of his remarkable feats of physicality.

The 26-year-old has grown a large following online across social media platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, X, Instagram and Strava. His passion for running was born when a friend encouraged him to take part in the Brighton half marathon and his challenges have got crazier and crazier ever since.

Cook is about to cross the Sahara Desert. (Image: Getty Images)Cook is about to cross the Sahara Desert. (Image: Getty Images)
Cook is about to cross the Sahara Desert. (Image: Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Cook has gone on to complete a marathon on crutches, run a marathon while drinking a beer after each mile and has been buried alive for a week. He also became the first person to run from Asia to London in 2019. Now, he is running the length of Africa in what could be his most dangerous challenge to date.

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Why is Russ Cook running across Africa?

Russ Cook has coined his latest challenge as Project Africa as he tries to become the first person ever to run the full length of Africa, while also raising money for charity. The challenge will see the Hardest Geezer run 9,000 miles from the tip of South Africa to the top of Tunisia.

The task includes crossing some famously difficult territories including jungles, rainforests and the Sahara desert. Explaining the quest on social media, Cook said: "Project Africa is about lots of things. It’s about seeing how far I can push my limits. It’s about throwing everything and the kitchen sink at life. It’s about learning & sharing cultures and showing people that dreams don’t always have to stay dreams. It’s about creating an impact that goes beyond just one geezer running across a continent."

Money is being raised for The Running Charity with over £130,000 collected so far. The charity 'harnesses the power of running & fitness to support young people who are experiencing homelessness'.

Where is Russ Cook now in Africa and has he been kidnapped?

Russ Cook is currently in Senegal, having recently crossed through Guinea, the Ivory Coast and Ghana. He is now approaching the Sahara Desert. The Hardest Geezer has been running for 278 days.

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Writing a message on X on Tuesday, Cook said: "Right girls and boys, we have a bit of a problem. We haven’t been able to get visas for Algeria, and if we don’t get them, then it’s game over for Project Africa. I’ve been running now for 278 days, covered nearly 12,000km through 13 countries and raised over £140k for charity in my attempt to become the first person ever to run the entire length of Africa. But right now all of that is totally hanging on whether we can get permission from Algeria to let us cross in through this border with Mauritania. 

"This is the only option we have left so, Algeria, if you’re listening, please reach out to me on my contact [email protected] . Anything you need from us please let me know. It would be an absolute privilege to visit your beautiful country. To everyone following the journey online please help us out by sharing this and helping us get this seen by the appropriate people in Algeria."

It's the latest challenge for Cook and his team, after the group was robbed at gunpoint in Angola. That setback saw the group lose cameras, phones, cash and passport, having to drive back to Namibia to replace the material.

The social media sensation was also kidnapped last August in an ordeal he labelled as 'some of the toughest days of my life'. The incident happened in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Cook being held captive by a gang with machetes before eventually negotiating his freedom.

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How many followers does the Hardest Geezer have on TikTok, X and Strava?

Russ Cook boasts 46,500 followers on TikTok and 150,000 subscribers on YouTube. He also has 501,000 followers on Instagram and over 278,000 followers on X, formerly Twitter.

The Hardest Geezer is also on the running app Strava, where followers can track his running every day. He has picked up 86,750 followers on the platform.

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