Sir Ranulph Fiennes to Compete in Marathon

Could be oldest Briton to finish Sahara ultramarathon

The 71-year-old explorer will raise money for the Marie Curie organization, which helps terminally ill patients and their families. (Wikimedia Commons)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Seventy-one-year-old British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes has announced plans to participate in a grueling ultramarathon to help raise money for Marie Curie, an organization that helps terminally ill patients and their families, according to the charity’s web site.

The Marathon des Sables, which takes place next April, will involve running a marathon each day for six days through the 120-degree-Fahrenheit heat of the Sahara Desert. Having recently turned 71, Fiennes would be the oldest Briton ever to complete the race, if he does indeed finish, according to the Guardian.

To prepare, Fiennes has been training with Rory Coleman, a professional running coach and ultrarunner who has completed the Marathon des Sables 11 times and who is training a total of 100 competitors for the race. Unlike the 99 other athletes under Coleman's tutelage, Ranulph will focus more on endurance than strength or speed.

“Sir Ranulph is a very loveable man and I have massive respect for all his life achievements so I don’t want to endanger his health,” Coleman said in a blog post on Marie Curie’s web site. “And, rather selfishly, I don’t want to be the coach that finished off one of the nation’s most widely known personalities.”

Though he is phenomenally fit and widely reputed as the world’s greatest living explorer, Fiennes will have to bear in mind the outcome of his more recent expeditions, not all of which have gone as planned. As Outside wrote in 2013, Fiennes was a few days from taking part in a record-breaking trek to the South Pole—crossing Antarctica in the middle of winter—when he was forced to pull out after sustaining frostbite on his fingers while attempting to fix a ski binding with his bare hands in -85-degree-Fahrenheit temperatures. It was hardly Fiennes’s closest brush with danger—he once amputated his own finger, using a fretsaw, after it had succumbed to frostbite—but that doesn’t mean he is taking his next challenge lightly.

“He's overcome two heart attacks, undergone a double heart bypass, a cancer operation, is in an ongoing fight with diabetes and has coped with deep personal loss,” reads a description on the Marie Curie web site, inviting donors to help Fiennes meet his $3.8 million fundraising goal. “But never has he pushed his body to such extremes as he is doing now.”

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