According to legend, the Greek messenger Pheidippides had to run from the battlefield in Marathon all the way to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians. For Nick Butter, his destination was not merely a city but the world. Whilst enduring broken bones, muggings at gunpoint, being locked up, attacked by dogs, shot at… the list continues with endless tales of perseverance and resilience that led Nick to accomplish a dream. That dream was to become the first man to run a marathon in every country in the world!
On January 6th 2018, Nick Butter set out on this mission. Some 674 days later, on November 10th 2019, Nick returned exhausted, broken, but triumphant, taking the title as the first and only person to run a full marathon distance in every country in the world. He and his bag travelled alone for 23 months, running 3 marathons in 3 countries, every week, for 96 weeks, and amassed a vast collection of jaw-dropping tales over that time too. This huge world record came after over 44,000km of previous, crazy expeditions, years of training and plenty of setbacks.
Very few people dare to simply visit every country. Those who do, take years, or a lifetime. Nick ran 26.2 miles (42km) in all 196 countries on earth. In this time, he battled war zones, wild time differences and over 100 degrees of temperature variation, he ran in every nation, faced muggings, dog attacks, border bribes, over 80 cancelled flights, and spent his life in 3 day cycles. Run, rest, travel, repeat: until the job was done. Pictures really do paint a thousand words. His photography is exceptional; a real glimpse into the vast diversity of our world. The journey also saw him raise significant money and awareness for the fight against prostate cancer in support of a terminally ill friend, whom he calls his ‘inspiration’.
Nick’s life now operates in cycles of planning, running, and sharing. He will typically spend a year or two planning an expedition, usually a world first or world record, which is then followed by 'the doing' aka running, and lots of it. Be it running from north to south of nations, across continents, or around untouched heavens around the world. Running is his transport, and his destination is everywhere. Sometimes these trips can take weeks or many years to complete. Once complete, Nick shares the journey with the world with the hope to inspire others to do the same. He especially enjoys speaking with young people; their opportunities and dreams are often untapped and he feels it’s like lighting the fuse of the next generation of adventure.
On day 458 of Nick’s ‘Running The World 196’ voyage, he was in Kazakhstan, in the canyon mountains, running under skies littered with stars. He travelled on his own nearly all the time but was joined by his brother for a rare week together. It was at this time that they hatched a plan for another big mission, one that he would require a home on wheels for. Nick’s younger brother, a nurse by trade but a skilled handyman, agreed to source and convert a large van into a home in which to live.
Having been immersed in cities and countries riddled with poverty, and spending time with many people who had nothing but the clothes on their back, affected Nick greatly. He felt he’d been living a life of clutter and excessive western luxury. Over time he took the decision to live simply and to sell everything he had. No house, no car, no tv, just clothes and some cash. His brother had 6 months to build his new home and set this dream alight.
When Nick landed back in the UK on 15th November 2019, having completed 'the world', the van was ready. Nick was moved to tears seeing the extent of the work and how his brother had converted a blank canvas of an empty Mercedes Sprinter into a luxury home on wheels. Complete with solar, heating, fridge, freezer, shower, toilet, hot water, bed, kitchen, living area, larder, and an impressive weight barring pull out storage draw at the back - he had made a masterpiece. Nick moved in 3 days later and has spent every night in it since with his girlfriend Nikki and their new Vizsla puppy, Poppy.
Embarking on a new type of adventure in January 2020, Nick hit the road to share his remarkable stories with the wider public as he began a speaking tour across the country in various theatres, schools and businesses. The tour was intended to be 12 months of Nick telling tales daily to hundreds of thousands of people. After just 3 months of stopping in up to 3 different cities per day, the tour has of course come to an abrupt halt due to the current pandemic the world is facing. Everything has changed.
Pausing present plans, and looking to a better time ahead, Nick has taken the opportunity to use the unplanned downtime to support vulnerable individuals and communities around the country. Turning a negative into a positive, Nick was put in touch with his first ‘customer’ through a friend. A lovely lady in her 80s who was isolating at home and running out of food. Through exchanging messages, Nick compiled a shopping list to reflect the lady’s needs, he then collected and dropped the required items at her door without coming into contact at all (whilst wearing gloves). With the help of BBC Radio, Nick is continuing these efforts whilst it is permissible to do so.
The speaking tour might be postponed for now, but it will still go ahead and the new dates will be shared in due course at: www.nickbutter.com/theatre-tour. In 2021 Nick is planning to start his next big multi-year expedition, the details of which are yet to be announced.
Whilst Nick plots his future adventures, which will undoubtedly see him set several “world first” records, for now he will be doing what he does best, and that’s running. Running has had a profound impact on Nick’s life, he comments,
“Running for me has always been about the power of the mind. Pushing myself, yes, but also running for therapy and the exceptional mindfulness it brings. In this time of worldwide crisis, we must all remember that our mental health will be affected by staying indoors.
Whilst we are still allowed one form of exercise per day, I would strongly suggest running (for those who can). It's cheap, and brings freedom to the mind, body and soul. You don't have to have any special gear or ability, just step outside, and put one foot in front of the other. Eventually you'll call yourself a runner, even if you start by walking. The power of running is truly special, and I consider myself very lucky to have found it and made it my life.
Your time is now. Run, and turn this bad scary time into a positive one.”
For a glimpse into Nick’s van life journey you can follow him on instagram at @canweparkhere, and for all the running adventures, you can find these on his personal account @nickbutterrun.