‘Hardest Geezer’ says London Marathon was a ‘stretch of the legs’ (2024)

After running the length of Africa, Russ Cook could be forgiven for wanting to put his feet up.

But just two weeks after completing the challenge, the 27-year-old athlete, who goes by the moniker “Hardest Geezer”, can now add completing the London Marathon to his list of accomplishments.

Mr Cook, from West Sussex, crossed the finish line in a time of 4 hr 25min 40sec on Sunday afternoon, as he branded the 26-mile jaunt alongside 50,000 other participantsa “stretch of the legs”.

He had only 14 days prior finished his 16,300km-long run from South Africa’s Cape Agulhas to Tunisia’s Ras Angela, crossing 16 different countries and raising more than £690,000 over 352 days.

Mr Cook said: “[Running] 26 miles was a great day out. I’m delighted to be back in the UK. It’s been another great outing – a stretch of the legs.

“Look at all these people crossing the finish line and raising so much money for charity.

“I’m very much hoping that when everything calms down, I’m going to get some time to do some personal stuff.

“Today was very different from running on my own. Especially the energy I got from the crowd. I ran as a kid, but I didn’t start long-distance running until I was 19 or 20.

“It’s given me everything, and some incredibly positive outcomes. I’m not complaining about all the attention I’m getting now – I’m just going to enjoy it.”

‘Hardest Geezer’ says London Marathon was a ‘stretch of the legs’ (1)

During his momentous African challenge, Mr Cook had encountered machete-wielding villagers, armed robbers and bouts of food poisoning.

But in a post on social media shortly before the event, he revealed his inspiration behind his love of running was closer to home.

He wrote: “I really do love the marathon. My dad first ran one when I was a young lad and I thought he was superman. Running my first one changed my life.”

Running alongside the athlete were a host of well-known faces. Twenty MPs and peers including Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Matt Hanco*ck, the former health secretary, also ran the 26.2-mile course through the capital.

Mr Hunt was asked if it was harder to bring down inflation or his personal best (PB) marathon time.

“I will tell you that the pain of getting a PB is a lot quicker than the pain of bringing down inflation,” he said.

“At least this is over in five hours or so.”

Mr Hunt said he felt “alright, actually” after finishing the marathon.

‘Hardest Geezer’ says London Marathon was a ‘stretch of the legs’ (2)

He added: “Good actually, normally after training runs I feel pretty knackered.

“But on the actual day you tend to stuff yourself up with food that your kids, and your friends, and your family bring along.

“So I’m feeling alright, actually.”

However, the Chancellor said this marathon might be his last. “I am 57, I have got to think about these things, but we’ll see,” he said.

“But it was an amazing experience, and well done to the London Marathon organisers, what an amazing job they do; London at its very, very best.”

Mr Hunt said he ran the marathon in honour of his brother, Charles, who died from cancer.

“He was actually diagnosed at the Royal Surrey, my local hospital in Guildford, so I’m raising money for a new cancer centre for there,” he said. “Over the three marathons, I’ve raised over £100,000.”

Pro-Palestine protesters had threatened to overshadow the event with flags punctuating the route and banners reading “Boycott Israeli Apartheid” and “Free Palestine”.

‘Hardest Geezer’ says London Marathon was a ‘stretch of the legs’ (3)

Uniformed police officers were seen patrolling the route in small groups.

Several Guinness World Records were broken at this year’s marathon, including for the fastest marathon dressed in an inflatable costume.

Lee Baynton, 39, from Essex, ran the marathon wearing an inflatable dinosaur costume while raising money for a local hospice.

His exact time is yet to be officially confirmed, however Guinness World Records confirmed he had broken the previous record set by Steven Waters at last year’s run in 4:15:02.

Mr Baynton has run six marathons but said this was his favourite. He added: “All the kids, as soon as they see you, are smiling, high-fiving. Everyone’s cheering and chanting, it’s incredible – I should do this every year.”

‘Hardest Geezer’ says London Marathon was a ‘stretch of the legs’ (4)

Thousands of supporters were seen lining the course in support of participants and holding signs including “there is wine at the finish line”.

There were 30 seconds of applause before the race in memory of last year’s elite men’s race winner Kelvin Kiptum, who died in a car accident in February at the age of 24.

He set a new London Marathon record of 2hr 1min 25sec last year, and set a world record of 2hr 35sec in Chicago in October.

Event directors had billed the marathon as its most inclusive ever in its 44-year-long history, offering support for more than 200 disabled participants as well as a faith space and a quiet space for neurodivergent participants in the finish area.

Female urinals, sanitary products and a private breastfeeding area were also available for those who needed them.

For the first time in the marathon’s history, wheelchair and non-disabled athletes were awarded equal prize money.

All four winners of the elite races received £44,000, with the runner-up winning £24,000 and £18,000 for third place.

Britain’s David Weir, who came in third place, previously said he had not expected the change to happen in his lifetime.

In the elite races, Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir, from Kenya, beat the women’s-only world record to win in two hours, 16 minutes and 16 seconds.

‘Hardest Geezer’ says London Marathon was a ‘stretch of the legs’ (5)

The men’s race was won by fellow Kenyan Alexander Munyao in two hours and four minutes, ahead of 41-year-old track great Kenenisa Bekele.

Switzerland’s Marcel Hug won the men’s wheelchair race for the fourth year in a row, with a time of one hour, 28 minutes and 38 seconds, while Catherine Debrunner, also Swiss, won the women’s wheelchair race with a time of one hour, 38 minutes and 52 seconds.

‘Hardest Geezer’ says London Marathon was a ‘stretch of the legs’ (2024)
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