What a trip across Africa could have done to Russ Cook’s body, according to a doctor

For most people, being robbed at gunpoint and kidnapped by machete-wielding thugs in the jungle would be enough to give up.

But not Russ Cook, the ‘Hardest Geezer’.

The ultra-marathon runner yesterday he achieved his dream of running the entire length of Africa, completing his 352-day running odyssey, covering more than 10,000 miles and running the equivalent of about 385 marathons.

Cook, a self-confessed ‘fat boy’ before embarking on a sensational turnaround, started his journey on April 22 last year at Africa’s southernmost point, Cape Agulhas in South Africa.

He crossed the finish line on Sunday at Ras Angela in Tunisia, the northernmost point of the continent, where he was hugged by loved ones and serenaded by fans chanting “Geezer, Geezer, Geezer.”

Russ Cook beams as he crosses the finish line after becoming the first person to run the length of Africa

Mr Cook, originally from Worthing, West Sussex, has openly shared the trials and tribulations of his continent, ranging from adventure, from urinating blood and back pain to kidnapping by armed gangs.

Such superhuman feats as Mr Cook’s are not the norm and Dr Zakariya Waqar-Uddin, a GP in the North East, explains that there are good reasons for this.

While it’s generally accepted that regular exercise is good for you, taking it to extremes – like 27-year-old Mr Cook – can be bad for your health.

Dr. Waqar-Uddin said: ‘It’s like brushing your teeth.

‘Twice a day is healthy, but after every meal, brushing too long or too hard can actually damage the protective layer.’

He said people who engage in extreme exercise risk damaging aspects of their physical health, such as their heart, joints and muscles, due to the long-term wear and tear.

Dr. Waqar-Uddin added that while regular exercise is good for these parts of your body, there is a limit, and crossing it can be potentially harmful.

That’s why he recommends people do 30 to 50 minute exercise sessions three to five times a week, similar to what the NHS recommends.

However, he added that any amount of healthy exercise, even a 10-minute walk, is better than nothing and that people just beginning their fitness journey shouldn’t be put off by starting small and making small, healthier changes to bring into their lives.

In fact, he warned that doing too much too quickly could actually harm your long-term health, as sustained, regular exercise is much better for you.

“Too much exercise is likely to discourage you from sticking with it in the long term – it will feel unachievable and will be given up,” he said.

Dr. Waqar-Uddin added that while a healthy amount of exercise is good for our mental health, too much, like the physical health benefits, can have the opposite effect.

“The mental health benefits of moderate exercise can be offset by extreme exercise – it can turn into an addiction,” he said.

Mr Cook’s astonishing achievement marks a sensational turnaround for the ‘Hardest Geezer’, who described himself as a ‘fat kid’ with drinking and gambling problems who ‘had no zest for life whatsoever’ until he found his fitness calling.

He now claims to be the first person to ever travel the entire length of Africa.

But the World Runners Association (WRA), which has just seven members, has claimed one of its founders actually deserved the title over Mr Cook.

The red-haired extreme marathoner overcame several obstacles during his almost long journey, and not only physical or mental ones.

One of his most terrifying ordeals was when he was ‘kidnapped’ in August in the Democratic Republic of Congo by a gang of men armed with machetes.

He described the nightmare of a few days earlier as ‘the hardest of my life’.

‘In an attempt to find the boys in a village on the Plan B route, I came across a rural settlement where the chief told me to give him money. I didn’t have one,” the runner wrote on day 107.

He added: “So that went well. Soon I was surrounded by a lot of gaming guys with machetes. Was escorted out of the village into the bush.

‘I emptied my bag to show that I had nothing but a half-eaten cookie. I gave it to them and fled. I spent the next few hours stumbling through overgrown jungle trails. I tried to stay off all tracks until I was far away.

‘I reached the village on the plan B route and discovered that the road was again impassable for the support van. Exhausted and dehydrated, I started to head back to the last known place with passable roads when two guys on a bicycle stopped.

‘They didn’t speak English, but they tried to communicate. I have to come with them to get back to my friends.

‘What happened next was a seven-hour motorcycle ride deeper into the jungle. In my head I thought this was it. Me. The self-proclaimed toughest guy. They are about to be held in a gulag in Congo before being dismembered and eaten limb by limb.”

Fortunately, Mr. Cook was driven into a village and moved to a hut, where he remembered a group of men arguing about what to do with him and discussing how much money he owed them.

Cook hugs his supporters at the finish line after completing 385 marathons in a year

Cook hugs his supporters at the finish line after completing 385 marathons in a year

After some back-and-forth negotiations, he was able to contact his team, who spent the next few days formulating a rescue plan.

Cook eventually managed to escape and returned to his starting point that day, running another 60 km on a new route. He admitted his head wasn’t “completely there” but vowed to “move forward.”

He celebrated the end of the mammoth flight by taking a dip in the Mediterranean Sea, where he candidly told reporters: “I’m really tired.”

As one man joked, “Let’s get you a strawberry daiquiri,” Cook responded, “Yeah, let’s fuck off.”

The runner often joked about getting the cocktail as a reward for his epic effort.

The extreme athlete was pictured sipping a pink cocktail while sitting on a white and gold throne with his girlfriend.

It was a moment he had savored for months, after enduring setback after setback

The Mr Cook run was not only a superhuman feat, but also a humanitarian one, raising money for charity along the way.

Half of the proceeds go to The Running Charity, which helps homeless young people, and the other half goes to WaterAid, which provides clean water and toilets in Africa, among others.

At the time of writing he has raised almost £800,000.

You can donate on his fundraising page at https://givestar.io/gs/PROJECTAFRICA