Ultrarunner Running Length of Africa Hits Bureaucracy Roadblock

British ultrarunner Russ Cook set off early last year from the tip of South Africa in high spirits. Cook planned to run 360 marathons in 240 days, covering 15,000km to the shores of the Mediterranean.

But plans change, especially for a project this ambitious. Cook’s 240-day estimate went out the window a while ago, he’s now 278 days in and still needs to cross the Sahara. He’s also changed his route, avoiding Mali and changing his endpoint from Tunisia to Algeria because of safety issues.

The entire expedition now hinges on Algeria

But these route changes might not be enough to ensure he finishes “Project Africa.”

Cook announced in an Instagram video that Algeria has not granted him and his team (a small film crew that accompanies him in a van) visas. They need permission to cross into Algeria from Mauritania, and it’s likely this detail that has put a spanner in the works. Northern Mauritania is unstable and the UK Foreign Office advises against all travel to the region.


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“I’ve been running for 278 days, covered nearly 12,000km through 13 countries…but right now, all of that is hanging on whether we can get permission from Algeria to let us cross in through this border,” Cook wrote. “This is the only option we have left so, Algeria, if you’re listening, please reach out.”

Blood, sweat, and the runs

Cook has soldiered on impressively through other issues during the expedition. The team was robbed at gunpoint in Angola, he’s had to stop for multiple doctor’s checkups because of blood in his urine, and (ironically) he almost constantly seems to have the runs.

Unfortunately, Cook can’t grit his teeth and just run through a bureaucratic hurdle, he’ll need some help to finish. For now, he’ll continue running north through Senegal and keep his fingers crossed that someone in Algeria will come to his rescue.

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is a writer and editor for ExplorersWeb.

Martin has been writing about adventure travel and exploration for over five years.

Martin spent most of the last 15 years backpacking the world on a shoestring budget. Whether it was hitchhiking through Syria, getting strangled in Kyrgyzstan, touring Cambodia’s medical facilities with an exceedingly painful giant venomous centipede bite, chewing khat in Ethiopia, or narrowly avoiding various toilet-related accidents in rural China, so far, Martin has just about survived his decision making.

Based in Da Lat, Vietnam, Martin can be found in the jungle trying to avoid leeches while chasing monkeys.