This is why Worthing's hardest geezer deserves to win sports personality of the year

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The BBC Sports Personality of the Year is so often dominated by the most popular athletes in the country, I propose that this year a relatively unknown runner crossing an entire continent should be a shoe in for the prestigious award…

Russ ‘The Hardest Geezer’ Cook, has been running the entire length of Africa for more than 345 days. With under a week left until the finish line, the Worthing man has run over 13,000 kilometres and raised over £381,000 for charity. This is far from his first mind blowing athletic feat, but it is the one that has ‘captured the public’s imagination’. A world record and a world’s first, running across the entire African continent is worthy of any sporting award.

There must be a subversion of expectation in Britain’s most prestigious accolade, The BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award (SPOTY). As an award traditionally reserved for the most famous British Athletes, this year should reward a man for one of the most impressive sporting feats we have ever seen. If completed, Russell Cook will have overcome a challenge deemed impossible not only due to physical exhaustion and weather conditions, but because of visa troubles, conflict and even a kidnapping. Bear in mind, this will have been done in the space of a year.

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The 26-year-old has run hundreds of marathons back to back to back to back ... putting the human body under physical strain never seen before across deserts, rainforest, mountains and jungles. Look, he may not be as household as Harry Kane or Mary Earps but it would be disrespectful to not place him alongside them as one of the best sportsmen/women in the country. To raise awareness for charity, throughout the world record attempt Russ has vlogged his experience. From the highs of beers and playing football with locals to the lows of sickness and being stuck at the borders without any help, he has shown it all.

Russ’ main opposition would come from the sporting traditionals. Perhaps suggesting that he was not competing against anyone or has not done anything representing Britain for example an Olympic gold medal for team GB or aforementioned footballing heroics. However, independent athletes have been shortlisted for the award before as seen when Ellen MacArthur came second for breaking the world record for the fastest non-stop solo circumnavigation of the globe.

The closest winner in comparison to Russ is Tony McCoy who received the award for solo achievements in horse racing in 2010. Therefore, non-mainstream sports have had recognition in the past. There is certainly an argument that he could obtain the BBC SPOTY Helen Rollason Award, reserved for those who face adversity in completing their feat which was previously awarded to Captain Sir Thomas Moore.

The impressiveness of Russ’ ability to strive through political divide and conflict to bring people together in support of this cause has been incredibly impressive. Russ has continued no matter the hurdle, even in Algeria when the embassy got involved to fix his visa application.

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Russ ‘The Hardest Geezer’ Cook, has been running the entire length of Africa for over 345 days. Photo contributedRuss ‘The Hardest Geezer’ Cook, has been running the entire length of Africa for over 345 days. Photo contributed
Russ ‘The Hardest Geezer’ Cook, has been running the entire length of Africa for over 345 days. Photo contributed

His combined impact on sport and the world of politics has been consistent enough to win the most prestigious award. Prior to his Project Africa challenge, Russ was well known for becoming the first person to run from Asia to London in 2019. His sporting brilliance does not stop there, as he also completed 71 marathons in 66 days as travelled from Istanbul, Turkey to Worthing, passing through a total of 11 countries.

Amazingly, Russ has also completed a marathon on crutches, ran a marathon while drinking a beer after each mile, and whilst pulling a car. His ability to constantly push the boundaries of the human psyche and physicality for several years is almost unmatched. So much so that it is about time that he got his flowers for one of these incredible achievements. If not, he has promised he will keep going bigger, better and bolder until he receives that recognition. He would be an anomaly, an outlier when pinned against the rest of the winners in its history, but it would by no means discredit Britain’s most important sporting accolade.

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