Five months after beginning his global fundraising challenge of running a marathon in all 196 countries, Nick Butter has just clocked up his 50th in Togo. We spoke to him after his 49th in Ghana about the challenges of washing his clothes, avoiding stray dogs and staying alive in Haiti.
After 149 days, 102 flights and four pairs of trainers, how do you feel it’s going so far?
More or less as expected. I do feel like I need to push pause every now and then because I'm tired. I finish a run at 11 or 12 o'clock at night and start again at 5 or 6 in the morning, so I don't even have time to dry or wash my clothes. I'm literally filthy the whole time!
What’s been the best part of it all?
It’s people that have really made the trip. In Panama, I was visiting a school and turned the corner to be surprised by thousands of kids. I also visited a cancer centre there, which was really emotional. Then in Ghana, I ran with a Paralympian called Alan. He’s got one leg yet properly ran four miles beside me on crutches. There are loads of amazing people like that I could mention.
What’s been the hardest part?
I got a tooth gum infection, which wasn’t the kind of running injury I was expecting. It caused me a lot of pain and ultimately resulted in me going home to a dentist. Then there was a dog bite in Tunisia. I’ve had dogs chase me a few times, especially in South America, but this one jumped up and took a chunk out of my thigh. It didn’t hurt that much but bled a lot. Right now I’m worried that I could have malaria. I’m seeing the doctor tomorrow.
Do you keep in touch with our ambassador, Kevin Webber, your inspiration for this adventure?
We message pretty regularly. Kev is so good to find the time. I feel so bad because he's got so much stuff going on and ultimately a shortened life and I think: ‘what are you doing, Kev? Don't talk to me’. The attitude he has is just unwavering. He’s human but you never see the fear that he must be feeling. He's a brilliant man and I'm really hopeful that he’ll be able to join me for a few marathons, even if it's just in Europe. I've not run with him since the first time we met on the Marathon de Sables.
You came back to London to run the marathon in April with our other Prostate Cancer UK runners. Did you enjoy it?
I love the London Marathon. It's home and you get thousands of people cheering you on, which makes it special. I didn't feel like I was really pushing it that much yet I still did an okay time, 3hr40m – my fastest so far. It was good to see Kev and my family, too. A little bit of an interview on Tower Bridge, which is good. That gave us some good exposure as well.
You’re about to run your 50th marathon in Togo. What’s been your favourite marathon so far?
I can't give one. London, of course, and running all day past an erupting volcano in Guatemala was pretty cool [see bottom photo]. There were thousands of people out in support in El Salvador and they handmade me a trophy of glass in the shape of their national bird. Even their elite athletes came out to join us [pictured below]. So that was special, too.
And which one’s been the toughest?
Haiti, because I hadn’t yet learnt not to run in the heat of the day. It was 43 degrees, really busy and really dangerous. Cars were bumping me out of the way and I had people coming up trying to mug me. It was just mentally gruelling. I was only on marathon number five and I was thinking, what am I doing if it’s going to be like this the whole time? Then I learnt my lesson and started running at 5 or 6 in the morning.
You’ve run in temperatures as low as -25 degrees in Toronto and as high as 43 in Haiti. Which is worse?
Heat. Because in the cold you can wrap up warm and just grin and bear it. But there's no escaping the heat. You feel like you want to take all your clothes off. It’s the humidity as well that makes you instantly drip with sweat and need to take in more water. Temperature-wise, I think it's going to get worse in West Africa – especially with the rainy season just starting.
Have you spoken to anyone about prostate cancer along the way?
Yes. I’ve talked to six people about getting checked and they’ve told me afterwards they have. Five said they were in the clear and one said they did find prostate cancer but it was in the early stages. I’ve realised this trip is not just about raising money and overall awareness of prostate cancer, but also the many moments of individual contact too. Speaking to random taxi drivers in broken English then getting a WhatsApp message later saying I’ve been checked and I'm okay – that brings a smile.
Check out Nick's progress and donate to him via his website.