The Man Running In The World’s Best And Worst Places
Running a marathon in every country on Earth – 196 of them, to be exact – takes as much planning and perseverance as sheer pavement-pounding
For most men and women, completing a single marathon will be one of the most challenging moments of a lifetime, but for Nick Butter, it’s the easiest part of his day. Since January 6th 2018, Butter has been running marathons more days than not.
Rather than loop one country, though, or blaze a trail straight around the globe, he’s aiming to tackle the never-before-attempted feat of running a marathon in each of the world’s 196 officially-recognised countries. And while that means pounding pavements from England to Australia, it also means running in countries where there’s barely any infrastructure to support it, from Liberia to South Africa.
For Butter, this means that logistics are one of the hardest parts of the experience: crossing borders and finding routes are harder than simply putting one foot in front of another. The reward? Exploring some of the world’s least-appreciated destinations on foot, often with the support of local pedestrians...
In Haiti it was about 44°C and every mile felt like a week – it was one of the hardest runs I’ve ever done
‘My real favourite was Guatemala, where I ran past an erupting volcano – it was amazing to watch. And I met a great guy called Philip who runs the project that’s helping to offset the carbon cost of my trip, Natural Capital Partners. We saw this project called EcoFiltro who’d given 400,000 water filtration devices to projects in Guatemala.’
‘El Salvador was incredible in that I had about 1,000 people running with me, I had school kids and elite athletes all together, and all the kids were waving union jacks.’
Q: What’s been your worst moment?
A: ‘I was mugged in Nigeria. Five guys came up to me and tried to take my stuff: fortunately I had some people with me who are now my friends. One of them was a national runner whose name is Peter Pan. We paid them off for about five pounds which is obviously a win, but I was pushed around, pushed on the floor, which obviously wasn’t nice.’
‘I was bitten by a dog in Tunisia – we ran over a beach and straight into the territory of five very angry dogs. I’ve still got the shredded shorts which I’ll later frame for the 196 museum. I had to go home for rabies shots – I was going to countries where it wouldn’t have been possible. It made for a good Insta story, though, so there’s always a positive!’
‘The worst marathon of the trip was probably the fifth, in Haiti. I’d already been to Toronto, the Bahamas, Cuba, which are very much Westernised places, whereas poverty is dire in Haiti. I hadn’t learned not to run at Midday, so it was about 44°C. Every mile felt like a week, it was one of the hardest runs I’ve ever done – Haiti’s dangerous, I was being bumped out of the way by cars because the roads are so busy. It was a long, long five hours. That was my first: “What am I doing?” moment.’
Q: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from pounding the pavements?
A: ‘I have this overall sense of a wider picture of the world. Anyone that’s travelled extensively will have the same thing, but I’m starting to put the puzzle together, how the religions work. The amount of plane journeys I went on in Africa, everyone was from different cultures, and most people hadn’t ever been on a plane before, so I was helping them with their seatbelts and trays. It was little things; the wider context of the world made me feel reborn.’
Find out more about Nick’s attempt at www.nickbutter.com