Ranulph Fiennes Completes Marathon des Sables

Almost dropped out due to heart trouble

The Marathon des Sables is a six-day ultramarathon that stretches 155 miles through the Sahara in southern Morocco. (tent86/Flickr)
Photo: tent86/Flickr

Despite experiencing some unnerving heart rhythms on his quest to complete the Marathon des Sables, 71-year-old British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes crossed the finish line on Saturday, becoming the oldest Briton to complete the six-day, 155-mile ultramarathon.

Temperatures on the course, which runs through the Sahara Desert in southern Morocco, spiked above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Fiennes’ trainer, Rory Coleman, told the Telegraph on Thursday that he was unsure if Fiennes would be able to finish the race. “We need to be really careful,” he said. But Fiennes, who has had two heart attacks and double bypass surgery and whose doctor instructed him not to exceed 115 beats per minute, ran for ten hours on Friday to reach the finish line.

“I don’t feel good,” Fiennes told the BBC upon completing the race. “Luckily I’ve had a load of painkillers. Without them, it would have been even more difficult.”

Fiennes told the BBC that not making it never crossed his mind, but “there were points where I thought the camels, who walk at the rear sweeping up those who are too slow, were getting dangerously close.”

Fiennes has pressed on despite his advance age. As he told Outside in March, “I would consider life not worth living if there weren’t some form of challenge of a physical nature. It’s just what I’ve always done since I can remember, and it would be pointless existing without a challenge.”

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