First, something that really annoyed me.
In 2017, ultrarunner Nick Butter began a challenge to run a marathon in every country in the world. 196 countries to be precise. Or 195 if you want to be really precise. Or 194. Or possibly 201. It all depends on who you ask as there are a number of countries that are heavilly disputed such as Macedonia or Palestine. But what annoyed me was that I didn’t know that there is one country which is also disputed and I had no idea it was not a country at all.
As Nick recounts each leg of his journey, starting first in the Americas and then flying to Africa, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific and finally finishing with countries such as Yemen and Syria where conflict makes travel almost impossible, I kept thinking: “When’s he getting to Greenland?”
And then he finishes in Athens with a final marathon back at the home of the marathon and I still think: “He’s missed a country. He’s not run the world at all! He didn’t go to Greenland!”
However it turns out that Greenland is not a country at all. It’s part of Denmark and Denmark, far from being one of the smallest countries in Europe, is actually one of the largest countries in the world because Denmark is Greenland and Greenland is Denmark.
So, sorry, Nick, I thought you’d cheated but it turned out that you had ran every country in the world, which at least saves you a plane ticket and a purchase of some thermal underwear to complete your challenge!
As for the book, while the challenge was for a good cause, he was raising money for the charity, Prostate Cancer UK, the format of the book becomes tiring. 196 countries and 196 marathons with most entries being:
“Arrive in country. Delay at customs. I wonder if I’ll get in? (He gets in). I wonder if my support will be here to collect me? (They collect him). Let’s run this marathon! (He runs marathon). I met some brilliant people, they were all great. Let’s go to the next country (he goes to the next country).”
The fact that Nick just about manages to make this format work is a testament to the uncynical and enthusiastic way he talks about the challenge. You get a real sense of what it meant to him to raise money and awareness of Prostrate Cancer and his optimistic outlook to try and find the good in every country he visited.
But 196 countries is a lot of countries… and by the end I was glad he didn’t have to go to Greenland as I’m not sure I could have handled another country.
You can buy the book here: Amazon