Nick Butter Is Running The World

Nick Butter is a 28-year-old from Bristol, England who is currently in the middle of a World Record attempt to be the first person to run a marathon in every country in the world.

That’s 196 marathons in total.

One in every single country.

Two years in the planning, Nick set off in January 2018 and is now six months deep into his audacious goal.

Right now, he is planning to finish sometime in the middle of 2019 – he has planned to complete the entire challenge in 550 days.

This post is for anyone who has sat at their desk and daydreamed about doing something audacious.

Nick is the kind of guy who dreams up these crazy personal challenges, then simply executes them.

Everything is impossible until it’s done, as they say.

Nick Butter – Running The World

Hi Nick! Where do we find you right now and how far into the challenge are you?

Just now I am in Cameroon, Douala, Africa on day 166 and have just completed marathon 54.

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Nick’s Douala run – Follow Nick’s progress via his Strava account

Before we dig into the details, where did the idea of running a marathon in every country in the world come from?  Has this been done before?

It was something that I decided I would like to do and challenge myself.

It will be a world first as no one has run a marathon in every country in the world.

How do you typically tackle a country?   Is it a case of landing at a major airport, staying at an airport hotel, bagging the marathon then getting on the next flight out?   

The majority of the countries are scheduled to arrive at the airport, staying at a hotel or a kind person’s home, running a marathon next day and then onto the next country the day after.

There are a few exceptions where I have slightly more days to recover after the marathon, but as you can imagine a lot of the scheduling has to work around travel as well.

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Nick running in Guatemala


In terms of logistics – visas, flights, accommodation – this event is a massive undertaking.   How long did you spend preparing for and planning it?   And what does your support team look like?

Yes, the planning part of the journey was so intense I can’t quite believe we are now 140 days in.

The planning took about 2 years and thousands of pounds.

I started the early planning on my own, then enlisted friends, and then had no choice but to find professional help; including Security, my PA, and a visa company.

The trip may only take 2 years to complete the running, but the journey in total is going to be about 5 years with all the planning, plus the aftermath.

I am always traveling on my own.

Occasionally I have some friends to come and visit me but other than that it’s just me.

My support team, however, is huge and very valuable.

I have a team of about 20, including my parents, and they are so important to make this thing work.

The team includes my PA Carla, a nutritionist, psychologist, security advisor, visa team, PR team, and my social media reps. Plus my podcast manager, logistics manager and the rest.

The team is so important and literally, run my life. Carla is fantastic and without her, I probably wouldn’t know what day of the week it is.

How has your body held up with running several marathons a week over a prolonged period?   Have you noticed any physical changes?  

My usual distance for competing is 100-mile plus and I trained hard for this, plus I’ve run over 350 marathons prior to the start of this challenge, so my body is aware of what I’m doing.

That said, my body still feels sleepy and sluggish sometimes. I have the odd niggle, and the odd pain but mostly I am fine. “If it hurts, carry on”, that’s kinda the deal with something like this.

I have a massage when I can, and also physiotherapy when I get home on the few days I get to rest here and there.

I’ve lost weight big time. Under 10kg but still, I don’t have that sort of weight to lose.

I am thinner in the face, my thighs are bigger and my arms and upper body are shrinking by the day. I wish I could eat more.

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In terms of diet, do you have specific foods you carry for fuelling?

I eat Pulsin bars, lots of sugar and basically anything I can get my hands on.

I have a sponsor other than Pulsin, Juice Plus. Juice plus provide me with pills. These pills are basically ground down fruits and veg that give me some nutrients. It is literally keeping me feeling more human than just turning into a sugar lump.

The biggest problem is finding food. Not even good food, just any food. Africa is specifically hard.

What gear are you running in – do you carry much with you when you go for a typical marathon in a new country?  

It’s probably easiest if you check out my kit list on my website: https://www.runningtheworld196.com/kit

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Do you have your marathon routes planned out, or is it sometimes a case of running around a new city a little lost, running around until you reach 26.2 miles?

It really depends on the support I have running with me in each country.

If I have local runners then I tend to take their advice on the best running routes.

For any other countries that I don’t have any advice, I do research the area and work out the best route.

Although you’re just getting started on your challenge, have you found yourself in any sticky situations yet?

There have been many incidents that have been dangerous, and others that haven’t felt as bad, but in hindsight were very dangerous.

I was approached by a number of people in Haiti who were looking to mug me, lucky they saw my security and backed off.

I ran through the kidnap capital of the world, Caracas, Venezuela without any security and my tech to keep me safe was not working properly.

The dangers though are often quite benign but can turn serious very quickly. Running for hours in the heat, and I’m talking very hot, you need lots of water, so finding the water I need at the right time is also scary.

Five bounding dogs came hurtling over a sand dune in Northern Africa, Tunisia actually. I was surrounded by some very grumpy dogs. I had just run straight into their territory. I had been chased and had dogs nipping at my heels quite often in South America but these dogs were not happy at all.

Before I knew it I had been bitten.

The leader of the pack, or the dog that seemed most angry, launched himself at my left thigh and took a chunk out of me. I still have the teeth marks as scars.

Chucking water at them, they eventually stopped. I finished the last 5 miles with adrenaline racing through me and then went to the doctors.

I had to return home for a few days to get it seen to and rabies shots etc.

My shorts still have the evidence of a dog bite.

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Are there any countries that you’re worried about – in terms of security, or access?  

There are about a dozen countries that my security company has marked as ‘very high risk’.

Whether that be political unrest, westerners unwanted, kidnap value etc…. countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Venezuela, Syria, and others are areas I’ve had to take a more detailed look at.

Can people meet you and run with you when you visit their country?

Yes! I would love for anyone to come and run with me in each country.

People don’t have to run the full 26-mile marathon – they can run as far as they can manage.

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Nick running Marathon des Sables a few years ago

What kind of response have you seen to the challenge so far?

The support for my challenge so far has been so tremendous and it really helps me along the journey.

How can people follow you – can we track each run you do, and see where you’re headed next?

Everything I do can be seen via the different social media channels.

This includes details of where I am and where I am heading to all the way through the expedition.

Thanks, Nick – Good Luck!

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Follow Nick on all the socials:

Strava: Strava account

Instagram @nickbutterrun

Twitter @nickbutterrun

Expedition Website www.runningtheworld196.com

Photo of author
Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and playing with his two tiny kids. More at his bio.

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