Nick Butter completed a two-year journey, running marathons in 196 countries throughout the world, including Israel.
By Tsivya Fox-Dobuler
Nick Butter, 30, just completed his Guinness Book of World Records marathon run in 196 countries over a two year period. Butter traversed almost every area of Jerusalem, which represented the next to last city of his project.
Butter’s adventure started January 6, 2018 when he embarked on an incredible mission to set a world record for running a marathon (42.2 kilometers/26.2 miles) in every country in the world. He began with London, UK and finishing in Athens, Greece. His 195th run took place in Jerusalem, Israel. But, it wasn’t supposed to happen.
Through good fortune and serious of seemingly fortuitous events, Butter was encouraged to run through the Holy City of Jerusalem instead of his choice of Tel Aviv.
Marathon Running Through Jerusalem
Butter’s change of heart started when Daniel Pearlman, a running enthusiast originally from Britain and now an Israeli resident working in high-tech, came across Butter’s Facebook page. Butter not only promoted his project to raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK, but also invited runners to join him as he sprinted through their cities. Butter started his fundraising campaign after his close friend Kevin Webber, also a runner, was diagnosed with the disease,
Pearlman signed up to join Butter’s run in Israel. After an extended wait, Pearlman received an email confirming that Butter would run in Tel Aviv as his second to last adventure.
Assuming that Butter had professional organizers in every country, Pearlman reached out to confirm that Butter was getting the assistance he needed to make his Israel run a success. To his surprise, the marathon runner was doing things on his own.
“Nick’s original plan was to run in Tel Aviv, as he thought that it was close to the airport and ‘safer’ than other places in Israel,” Pearlman told United With Israel. “I explained that Jerusalem is not much further than Tel Aviv from the airport and running in the Holy City would be a much more iconic experience.”
Pearlman explained that, although Jerusalem is hillier than Tel Aviv, it would be much more worthwhile for the athlete. “Nick was nervous about security,” continued Pearlman to United With Israel. “I explained that Jerusalem is no less safe than Tel Aviv and that the most dangerous thing he’d need to contend with was crossing the road.”
With Pearlman agreeing to fully arrange things and the runner agreeing to take his marathon journey to Jerusalem, Pearlman ran full speed ahead to ensure that Butter would see not only the beauty of Jerusalem but the peaceful co-existence of every religion represented there as they live side-by-side.
In addition, he got a professional tour guide to run the entire 26.2 miles with Butter, pausing along the route to enjoy the ancient city and provide historical and political background information.
Pearlman continued, “Nick told me he thought Jerusalem, and of course the entire country, are the most mesmerizing [place he’s] seen. ‘The culture, sensitive political position and the dynamic of race, religion, language makes this place one of my favorites,’ Nick said.”
“We created a course through Jerusalem that covered virtually every neighborhood and religious group in the city,” Pearlman told United With Israel. “We included Jerusalem’s Old City, which has businesses run by Jews, Muslims and Christians as well as the histories of each religion, the Western Wall and its famous shuk market, Givat HaTachmoshet where he enjoyed taking pictures and socializing with Israeli soldiers, we took in the excellent view from Mt. Scopus and Hebrew University, where we saw to the Dead Sea and Arab villages, as well as the Shcherover promenade in Talpiot, Montefiore Windmill, the Old Train route, Givat Ram, the Knesset and the Ministerial Campus.”
Six people ran the entire route and another six joined at various sections along the way. The Jerusalem marathon took 5.5 hours. “Nick’s goal is not to finish the marathon for speed but to experience the places where he runs,” Pearlman explained. “Along the way, we window shopped at the shuk, ate ice-cream and fresh rugalach (danishes), and enjoyed gorgeous views.”
Butter is making a documentary and writing a book on his two year adventure. He is also starting a speaking tour to schools and adult learning centers all over the UK and Europe about his experiences.
“Nick repeatedly said that his preconceived view of Israel was wrong,” Pearlman explained. “We completely changed the impressions he formed based on how the media negatively portrays the country. Nick said that Jerusalem was one of the most memorable runs out of his 196 accomplishments.
“If his experience in Israel only gets a paragraph or a few sentences in his documentary or book and he talks about Israel’s hospitality, warmth, beauty and safety, all our efforts to make his trip special will be worth it.”
By the Numbers
Butter flew on more than 400 flights, received 120 visas and 10 passports, and went through 15 pairs of running shoes during the past two years.
Through his adventure, he was shot at while crossing from Guinea-Bissau into the Gambia, mugged at knife point after a run in Nigeria, faced various perils crossing the Yemeni border, bitten by a dog, hit by a car, spent a night in a cell, got covered with leeches in Nepal, ran in 60°C heat in Kuwait and 50°C heat in Djibouti, faced an erupting volcano in Guatemala, bribed 60 people to get through various checkpoints, listened to over 80 audio books during his runs, suffered food poisoning in Bangladesh, and more.
“We live on average for 29,200 days,” Butter said, according to The Jerusalem Post. “Kevin expected to be living to retirement, and then got told he was going to die in two years’ time. My message is to explore the world, to appreciate what we have, and make the best use of the time we have.”
Webber, who was given only two years to live four years ago, joined Butter on his final run in Greece on Sunday.
To finance the trip, Butter used $1.28 of his own money and funds given to him from friends and family. He also received over $250,000 from 48 sponsors, according to the Post.
Butter also raised $320,000 to fight prostate cancer and provide men in the UK with free and easy access to medical checks and care.