“I saw myself in the mirror and thought, ‘this is the low, this is where you find out what you’ve got’.”
That was Worthing’s Russell Cook as he bandaged his battered feet in a Hungarian public toilet, after sleeping behind a shop and fresh off the back of a 1,000 mile run, with 1,000 more to go.
The 22-year-old has been running from Istanbul in Turkey to Worthing Pier, including crossing the Channel unsupported in a kayak, and the epic challenge has not been without its difficulties.
His feet are at breaking point, he has been sleeping in a hammock for six weeks and human contact has been a rare occurrence. But the self-confessed ‘lone wolf’ said he would not have it any other way.
“I am a big believer in setting goals,” said Russ, who will become the first person to have completed the challenge.
“I think to keep a healthy mind you need to be striving towards something. I’m always looking to test the boundaries and test my limits and see what I can achieve with my life.”
When Russ spoke to the Herald on August 1, he was in the tiny German village of Obernsees having completed 48 marathons in 45 days, covering at least 26 miles a day.
Departing Istanbul on June 17, his destination was London, then down to Lancing on August 23 for a triumphant run to Worthing Pier joined by hundreds of supporters.
Amazingly, Russ only started running in 2018 after becoming inspired by a fellow traveller he met in Kenya who was cycling around the world.
By his own admission he is not cut out for a standard nine to five job and instead turned his attention to ultra-marathon running.
A year later and the Broadwater boy’s incredible journey has taken him across Europe under his own steam. He said the support he has received along the way has kept him going.
“People have treated me so nicely, it’s made it so much easier,” he said. “The support from back home has been insane. It feels like I am not by myself.
“I look an absolute mess, but most people just ignore it. The odd person speaks to me and asks if I need any help, and I’ve learned I want to be that person in the future. Just be more aware that I don’t know what people are actually going through.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think, but sometimes the trees will just open up and a good song will come on and those are the bits you have to embrace.
“I just stay so positive and use the low moments to prove to myself I can do it.”
He remembered a family in Turkey taking him in for food and shelter for nothing, and a Bulgarian woman giving him food when he ran out of money.
The power of Instagram also brought him into contact with two fellow English travellers, who sought him out and provided much-needed interaction.
Russ is no stranger to the benefits of running and is raising funds for The Running Charity, a group that supports young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness by introducing them to running.
Donate to Russ’s cause here www.justgiving.com/fundraising/thehardestgeezer and follow his progress through Instagram @thehardestgeezer_