Running A Marathon in Every Country in the World
Nick is running a marathon in every country in the world in honour of inspirational friend and endurance runner, Kevin, who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Their motto is 'Don't wait for a diagnosis. Get out there and do something'.
We recently had a great catch up with this inspiring MISSION ambassador to find out what the challenges of his trip have been and what's keeping him fuelled. 155 marathons down, 400 MISSION teas taken and 80 weeks on the road. Keep reading to learn all about Nick and his mission...
Nick, how did you first get into running?
When I was younger I was a skier in the under 19's British ski team. After skiing I went into work in banking. In banking you don't get a lot of time to do anything for yourself, so running was my only escape to try and feel like I'm out in the wild - not sat behind a desk in a glass box. It was tough to fit running in, but I felt I had to. It was the only thing that I felt would keep me sane. I gently transitioned into running full time and started to compete more. I have now completed around 541 marathons and 89 ultras, so I've done a lot of running pretty much all over the world. I don't really like to run for speed anymore, I just enjoy it and enjoy the experience of running.
Tell us more about your Mission...
As of today, it's day 540 of my 23 month expedition to run a marathon in every country in the world. I’m hoping to set a new world record in the process, along with breaking some other ones too. The goal is to raise £250,000 for Prostate Cancer UK, a charity close to my heart after losing a dear friend of mine, and also to have a great time in the process. I think that's the whole point of the mission, it's not just to set records and do a lot of running, it's to enjoy being out in the wild, seeing every country.
I'm super excited at the minute because I feel like I'm now on the home straight as I've just finished Africa. I've now got 41 countries left and I will soon be finished. My very last marathon will be Athens.
What challenges have you faced?
The most difficult part of the journey has probably been the hostility. Obviously you have fatigue, you have constant moving around, and trying to not miss flights when you’re running three marathons a week in three different countries... that's difficult. But I have faced some pretty scary problems too. I got mugged at knifepoint in central Lagos market in Nigeria... which was not fun. I've actually had a number of weapons drawn on me. My legs have been burned a few times from exhaust pipes when I've been running in super, super busy areas - motorbikes have just come along and bumped into me and the exhaust has burned my leg. I was attacked and bitten by dogs in North Africa as well, and just three, four days ago I was locked in an airport because I didn't have the right visas and documentation. So that was a nice 12 hours in an airport.
Has anything surprised you as a result of your challenge?
Everyone always said to me that when I left for the trip, I'd come back a different person. I didn't really know what that meant because ... I'm just me. But I already feel completely different and I’ve still got 41 countries to go.
I feel as if I have just been colouring-in a painting of the world, and now I'm starting to see different cultures and how things work. I have much bigger respect for everywhere else, because in the Western world we're so lucky, especially when you're running through Africa and you see every corner of poverty and need. I was asked recently to sum up Africa and sum up each continent in one word and I said Africa is basically without, because there's so much stuff they don't have and yet they give everything.
There's lots of documentaries about the planet and all that sort of stuff, but ultimately the planet wouldn't be the same without people and the biggest experience that I've come away with from this mission is the people. It is all about the people. The people that I've met along the way have been just completely fascinating and I've got friends in pretty much every country I've been to now, which is just an amazing network to have.
I've also started a foundation to try and give a bit back to various different communities around the world. We're building a disabled learning centre in Sierra Leone soon as well. So I've kind of already kick-started some of the things I want to do, but ultimately saying "hello" to people is something that I do ... I don't know how many times I say hello on a marathon and I'm not exaggerating when I say 500 times. Literally just waving to people saying hi, hi, bonjour, just any language, everyone knows how to say hello more or less, if you're in that country and it's a shame because you come to London and everybody gets on the tube with their head down and you don't have that conversation. And when I come back I will force myself to speak to people more, because people make the world go round.
What motivates you?
The people that I have in my close circle of friends. They're all extraordinary people, they're all doing crazy stuff. They're either climbing Everest or rowing oceans. It's kind of a strange thing to say because you don't really count yourself as extraordinary and then you think about what you're doing and then actually, yeah, that is not ordinary.
Everybody always says that I'm crazy and mad but in the nicest possible way, I think. So maybe it's a combination of being bizarre and trying to do something that people haven't done; to do stuff that's a challenge and I think that's kind of what life's all about, right? You don't want to be sitting behind a desk twiddling your thumbs until you get to retirement and then die. You want to experience everything, you want to see every corner of the world and try and be as extraordinary as you can. I suppose I want to leave a mark.
How was the transition from your old life to now?
It was a huge change going from my old job and my old life of routine and stress of spreadsheets and moving one pot of imaginary money to another, to now. Now I wake-up in a different country every few days. I arrive at a border and the immigration officer asks “Where have you come from?” and I can't answer him because I have no idea. So it's been a special journey and I'm still on it and I'm hoping it will never end, I'm just going to keep doing it.
What have you learned along the way?
The best thing about achieving success and getting to somewhere that you want to be is to keep trying stuff even if you fail. The amount of times I've done trips and missions that haven't succeeded, I've lost count of how many times that's happened. I think my message to young people and I suppose adults as well, is “If you try something, don't be afraid to fail and just get out and do it, because you still have a journey along the way”.
I want to set these records, I want to write a book and earn some money off the back of this project, but ultimately that's not why I'm doing it - if nobody buys my book and if nobody cares about what I did, I'm still having a great time. So pick something that you're passionate about, enjoy it and then you can't lose. You're investing in something and you're literally getting the reward immediately.
How were you introduced to MISSION?
So I found MISSION after I met Tom. We were in Devon and we were running with another brand and we just got chatting about extraordinary things that MISSION were doing and extraordinary things that I was planning to do. Then a few years went by and Tom did some more crazy stuff and then launched MISSION and I was like, okay, yeah, I'll give that a go.
I'm not exaggerating when I say I probably drank at least one cup of tea every day since Tom first gave me that first packet. It’s kind of a habit now. When I'm away I get up in the morning to go down to breakfast in some strange hotel, whether it's in Africa or South America or wherever it may be, and I pick up my room key, I pick up my wallet and I pick up a teabag and I go down and have that cup of tea and start my day.
How does MISSION fit into your daily routine ?
I always take MISSION because you've got a slow release of the energy in the tea. You don't have sugar spikes throughout the day. It lasts for a long, long time. So I can just take it in the morning and it almost feels like I'm set for the day. I don't have to think about anything else, that's done. It helps my mind also, on my off days for example, when I'm not running, I'll have maybe a couple of MISSION teas and that will just keep me going. I'll be busy with all the stuff that I need to be doing and I never experience that sugar low, it's just constant energy. So honestly I know you think it's just tea, but it's really not. It's a great drink and I look forward to having it every morning.