Cue the Hardest Geezer

By Alfie Mullan

Posted 2nd May 2024

Reading Time: 5 Minutes

The Hardest Geezer.

Not something I’ve ever been called, despite spending my younger years trying to be one.

So what is the hardest geezer? Let’s break it down.

Hardest – solid, tough to break down, most resilient.

Geezer – cheeky chap, jack the lad, luvly jubbly.

Together you get this guy: Meet Russ Cook. You might have seen his story in the news recently but I came across him in this video on day 23 of his epic journey running the whole length of Africa.

A red-headed man, with a big beard, a bigger smile, shouting in a cockney accent, calling himself the hardest geezer, committing to run the full length of Africa by the end of 2023.

I was struck by this first video so I followed him on social media. I eagerly followed him up to 7 April, when he reached the end of his journey on a beach in Tunisia, a bit later than he’d expected. He’d run from Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of the African continent, nearly 10,000 miles away.

The ‘geezer’ ran 360 marathons in 240 days. Through his ever-increasing number of followers he has now raised over £1M for charity and faced a whole raft of problems along the way, including armed robbery, kidnapping, severe food poisoning and sickness, and issues obtaining visas to key countries on his mission.

All this on top of the toll that it must have taken on his body. You’re likely to have seen images of people in bits after completing the London marathon… well he just ran 360 of the blighters!

Since the day I started following Russ, I would wake up every morning and eagerly check his progress on social media. When you consider the multiple ordeals and dramas that he’s had to endure on his journey it’s not that surprising that I found myself disturbed some days when he shared videos of his physical and mental struggles.

And then he went missing in action entirely for almost a week, and I was worried sick, especially when a team member of his posted that they were still looking for him after a few days only for this post to be subsequently taken down.

We later found out that he’d been held hostage by a machete-wielding tribe somewhere in the heart of Congo.

I also remember when the whole mission was suddenly put in jeopardy because the Angolan authorities had denied him the visa that he needed to enter their country. Russ and his team had to pull out all the stops to get the decision reversed and luckily, largely through the influence of his social media contacts, the Angolan government eventually granted the necessary access.

The last few weeks were filled with excitement as he edged nearer to the finish line and it looked increasingly likely that he was going to achieve his goal – and remarkably unscathed. When he eventually finished I couldn’t help but feel a little emotional. I’m aware this is ridiculous when you consider that my sole involvement has been watching him from the comfort of my own home but I have really invested in this guy over the months and truly felt the ups and downs of this tremendous achievement.

Anyway, on the evening of that momentous day my wife and I sat down for dinner and she casually threw in to the conversation, “I saw on the news today about a guy from England who ran the whole length of Africa… that’s pretty cool isn’t it? He’s raised a lot for charity and his girlfriend met him at the finish line.”

There’s no denying that her statement was factually correct but initially I couldn’t help but feel a little annoyed.

I’ve been following Russ the whole time, for months on end, rejoicing in his highs and fretting for his lows, and you don’t get to swan in at the end and share the spoils just like that.

But then it struck me that there are parallels between this episode and the stock market and its performance.

All the evidence suggests that the very best investors – i.e. those who make the most money – are successful by avoiding mistakes and not reacting to the noise. We all know markets can go up and down, and the best investors simply avoid responding or reacting to global events. Markets can be scary places, causing a lot of stress and anxiety.

The best way for most of us to ensure a positive investment experience is to simply ignore the markets on a daily basis and only dive in to celebrate the result once the race is run.

This is essentially what my wife did with the Hardest Geezer. She was totally oblivious to the ups and downs throughout his journey. She simply stepped in to celebrate the hard-earned spoils once it was all over.

Whereas I had spent months agonising and stressing about the trials and tribulations of Russ’s epic journey. Yes, I got to enjoy the good times he shared, but they never seemed to last too long because the next armed robbery, kidnapping, illness or geopolitical restraint was never too far away. Did I enjoy the ride? Somewhat. Did I rejoice in the victory at the end? Absolutely. Did my wife have a better overall experience? Quite possibly.

The connection is tenuous I’ll admit but the message is the same. Stock market investment, much like running the entire length of Africa, is a journey full of highs and lows, excitement and boredom, unforeseen disasters and recoveries.

If you want to skip the pain of the low points and catastrophes, it’s best to just hold on tight and wait until the end. Maybe just check your portfolio performance once every decade!