The real-life Forrest Gump ran across Africa – a Finnish expert tells how extreme work can change a person | Sport

The real life Forrest Gump ran across Africa a Finnish

– I’m quite tired. Mission accomplished.

Known to be the first to run from the southernmost to the northernmost point of Africa by Russ Cook laconic words, hairy personality and an enthusiastic group of followers reminded me of the main character in the classic movie Forrest Gump, who got excited about running.

On Sunday, Cook arrived at the end of his 16,300-kilometer, 352-day mission in Ras Angela, Tunisia. The 27-year-old Briton started his journey on April 22, 2023 from Cape Agulhas, the southern tip of South Africa.

The performance of a persistent runner is equivalent to approximately 386 marathons. He traveled an average of 46 kilometers per day. Cook was accompanied by a service van with a varying number of cameramen and other assistants.

Cook suffered several on his way from food poisoning and back pain, blood in your urine at 2,000 kilometers and had to, for example armed robbery and kidnappingvictimized by the border authorities.

For example, sand and snowstorms also happened on the route that passed through rainforests, mountains and the Sahara desert.

After 200 days, Cook reduced his daily mileage on the advice of a Nigerian doctor.

– It took a couple of days to get X-rays. The bones were not damaged, so the only option was to stop whining, take the strongest painkillers available and hit the road again to “zombify”, Cook said According to the Guardian.

Before his ambitious feat, the Briton said he wanted to inspire others with his rapture.

– I’m just an ordinary guy. If I can do this, hopefully people can apply this to their own lives, whatever they do. For the 99%, it’s not about running across Africa, but this might make them think a little more about chasing their dreams.

In the past, Cook has run, for example, from Istanbul to London, clocked the fastest marathon while pulling a car (9 hours 56 minutes) and spent a week buried alive drinking only water.

Inner strength

Finnish adventure athlete Jukka Viljanen has run, for example, a 1,628-kilometer distance across the Sahara and also crossed the Greenland continental glacier on foot. In November-December He ran around Qatar.

The Finn, who has done and seen extreme performances, rates Cook’s run very highly in the field of adventure sports and ultra running.

– He is not a superman, but an ordinary person who has had a dream, which he has fulfilled. A person is capable of wonderful things if he just wants it enough, says Viljanen.

Viljanen reminds that the general public only sees Cook’s heroic finish, but behind the performance can be years of hard and uncompromising training that required sacrifices.

– It has certainly required work: blood, sweat and tears, really.

Despite the physical demands, the job has required the most mental effort, Viljanen estimates. You have to be able to feel at home in uncomfortable conditions.

– There is no shower, food and sleeping places are what they are. Have to put up with the discomfort. That’s what it takes. You have to be very strong internally, and the internal conversation should be very motivating all the time.

– You shouldn’t give power and voice to pain, because it takes you with you. After that, stopping is inevitable.

Running changes a person

Cook practically spent a year away from his family and girlfriend because of his running project.

What makes a person run alone in difficult, even dangerous conditions day after day? According to Jukka Viljanen, the answer is clear: inner fire and motivation.

– External motivation could mean that Cook would run for some external reward, such as money, fame or honor, but he wouldn’t be able to run for that long without an inner fire, says Viljanen.

– Without knowing the person, that’s the best thing he can do with his pants on.

Viljanen, who sometimes spent hundreds of hours practically alone on his own adventures, is sure that Cook finds his trip very meaningful and retreat-like.

– Basically, you are alone with your own thoughts all the time. Many things can change on such a trip. The world of thought, what is important in life and what is not. Many things come off. I think that has been mentally very rewarding for him, although physically it must have been really tough.

Viljanen analyzes that Cook should have left everything extra behind and “grounded” in Africa. A quick return to normal life can be difficult or at least take time.

The longest Viljanen has ever been away from home was a couple of months in extreme conditions on glaciers or deserts.

– He is being pulled into this other world so quickly. You can imagine his head exploding when he first goes to some mall with a freaking mecca, artificial lights and such.

Instead of Africa, to the glacier

Jukka Viljanen himself would not run across Africa for security reasons. Dreams were dashed after the Arab Spring at the latest.

– I don’t know if Cook had some kind of security with him, but the risks of being kidnapped or something unpleasant happening are very high.

Viljanen says that he carefully studied the security situation in Africa with experts, for example, when planning the Sahara run.

In the future, instead of Africa, he plans to head to Iceland’s Vatnajökull glacier, which is the largest glacier in Europe. No one is known to have run across it yet. That’s exactly what Viljanen plans to do in about a year.

– For me, it is the third glacier after Antarctica and Greenland.