Berczy Interviews: Nick Butter
For the runners among you, I’m sure Nick Butter needs absolutely no introduction. But for those of you who haven’t come across him yet, on November 10th 2019, Nick completed a marathon in every country in the world. The United Nations quotes that there are 196 countries, but in a bid to future-proof the record, he ran 211, in just under two years.
Nick Butter is one of Berczy’s ambassadors, who is bounding with enthusiasm, and is always fresh with crazy and fun ideas for events and expeditions. He’s just finished a marathon a day in Italy, while battling with a stress fracture in his tibia.
I suppose we should start with what motivated you to run a marathon in every country in the world?
When I was growing up I was always into sport, I did my first marathon when I was 11! I was working in finance in the city for almost a decade, and running became my therapy and escape. I had started running shorter distances for fitness, but then discovered how great it was for my mental health.
About nine years ago, I started running more seriously and it got to the point where I had to turn down free race entries and sponsors. It was in the middle of the Sahara Desert, during the infamous Marathon de Sables, that I met Kev.
Kev had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and given two years to live, he told me not to wait for a diagnosis and do something you're passionate about now.
The conversation and his positivity gave me the impetus to do something amazing, and I realised no-one had run a marathon in every country in the world. The aim was to raise awareness and money for prostate cancer, so we could have a national screening program in the UK.
At the time, I was a bit naive, I had no idea how long, difficult, terrifying at times, and extremely costly it would be. Over 20 to 30 years, it’s totally doable, but squeezing it into two years was really difficult.
Without giving away too much from your first book Running the World, what were some of the high and low points of the trip?
I think the thing that struck me the most was the kindness of strangers, it was incredible. I’d arrive in a new country pretty much every three days and people would offer me a room, drive me to my next country and even buy me water when they don’t even have it for themselves.
This trip would not have been possible without so many people’s generosity and the thousands of people that ran alongside me for a couple of miles or a full marathon. I landed in Toronto, and we ran in -25C, I was completely unprepared, but the Toronto running group lent me gloves and hats!
One of the scariest things were the rabid dogs. I was bitten by a dog in Tunisia, resulting in trying to find a rabies jab as quickly as possible and flying home to get my second one. When I arrived in the Marshall Islands, I was given a stick to fend myself from the angry dogs, which resulted in running 335 laps around a car park.
There were plenty more hairy moments crossing borders of war-torn countries, being mugged, shot at and detained, but I won't ruin the book for you!
Since you’ve returned from running the world, what have you been up to?
When I crossed the finish line with Kev back in 2019, five years after we’d started organising the trip, there was a media storm. I started a speaking tour in schools and theatres, which sadly got postponed due to coronavirus, as did many of the missions I had lined up.
Instead, I spent lockdown in my van down on the Cornish coast, spending time relaxing, running and surfing. Next, we headed to the Lake District to run around all 16 lakes, before starting our journey to Italy. I started in the Alps in the north, and ran a marathon every day, for 100 days. However, I started to realise that my tibia was playing up, which turned out to be a stress fracture so I had to take a few days off. In the name of the mission I then had to complete a couple of double marathons to complete the 100 marathons in 100 days!
Since January, we have been enjoying some down time in the Alps, making the most of the snow and preparing for our expedition to New Zealand in March. We have some really exciting plans for 2021 that I can’t wait to share with you.