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Fiennes: Desert marathon 'hellish'

Sir Ranulph Fiennes became the oldest Briton to complete the punishing Marathon des Sables with just 13 minutes to spare, the exhausted explorer has revealed.

The 71-year-old, who has previously suffered two heart attacks and underwent a double heart bypass in 2003, concluded at the finish line that the six-day 256km race through the Moroccan desert was "not set for old geriatrics like me".

Asked if the achievement was worth the strain he has put his body through, he said it will "depend on how much money I have raised", as the total for Marie Curie reached nearly £1 million.

Speaking after completing the race, the passionate explorer described the experience as "more hellish than hell".

"I got told by the surgeon when I had my last heart attack that I must not go over 130 heart beats a minute or undergo stress or extreme circumstances," he said.

"When I get back to the UK I'm going straight to my surgeon to see what's gone wrong.

"I've not been in hot stuff on foot before and it's very, very difficult.

"The main thing is this race is not set for old geriatrics like me.

"When you see the camels coming up behind you, you're in danger of being cut off for being too slow.

"In the second-to-last push of the race I was only just in time - by 13 minutes.

"The aim is to raise more money for more nurses in the UK with the wonderful Marie Curie, who make life much more bearable in a difficult time in your life."

There were fears that Sir Ranulph would not be able to finish the event after the 91km fourth stage, which saw him run for more than 30 hours with just one hour of sleep, while t owards the end of the race he relied on pain killers to numb a back problem.

Sir Ranulph has previously raised £6.3 million for Marie Curie - i n 2007 he climbed the Eiger by its north face for the charity, a nd in May 2009, at the age of 65, he became the oldest Briton to climb to the summit of Mount Everest.

Dr Jane Collins, chief executive of Marie Curie said: "We'd like to say a huge congratulations and thank you to Sir Ranulph Fiennes. It was clearly an incredibly difficult physical and mental challenge and he proves that with sheer determination, anything is possible."

He said he was unable to reveal his next challenge "because of the Norwegians".

"They always try to break records that we go for," he said.

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