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Fiennes on ultra-marathon mission

Sir Ranulph Fiennes has completed the first stage in his bid to become the oldest Briton to complete the Marathon des Sables - a gruelling six-day ultra-marathon in the Moroccan desert.

The explorer, who turned 71 in March, faces temperatures of more than 50C (112F) and endless sand dunes in a challenge dubbed the toughest foot race on Earth.

It covers 251 kilometres (155 miles) including the distance of a marathon a day and a double marathon one day, with runners carrying everything they need on their backs.

A spokeswoman for Sir Ranulph said he had completed the first stage today, from Jebel Irhs in the south Moroccan Sahara, covering 36.2km (22.49 miles) to Oued Tijekht.

She said: " He finished the run in eight hours, after battling the extreme heat, uphill climbs and sand dunes.

"The route started across rocky terrain but soon moved into a small jebel (mountain) climb. At 22k Sir Ranulph crossed a dune field followed by a long, arduous ascent under the burning midday sun."

Sir Ranulph said: "It was a tough day, going up the dunes is the hardest part, especially under the midday sun. My shoulders are sore from the pack and my right foot needs looking at. I'm not thinking about tomorrow until tomorrow."

Rory Coleman, his trainer, added: "We did well today and kept a steady pace overtaking quite a few people. Eight hours under the scorching desert sun is tough but we're in good shape for tomorrow. It's back to the bivouac now to put our slippers on, have a protein shake and get to sleep as soon as the sun goes down."

Sir Ranulph will spend the evening resting in a bivouac before starting the second stage tomorrow morning.

He is raising money to help the charity Marie Curie provide care and support for people living with a terminal illness and their families, and is e mbarking on the massive challenge despite having suffered two heart attacks, undergoing a double heart bypass, a cancer operation and an on-going fight with diabetes.

He has said: "I'm putting my life on the line for Marie Curie. People say I must be mad, especially as I don't like the heat, but it's what you've got to do to raise money for amazing charities like Marie Curie, who provide people living with a terminal illness with the care they and their family desperately need."

Since news of Sir Ranulph's challenge was announced in January, supporters from around the world have been sending him good wishes.

He recently received a message from the Prince of Wales, who wished him the very best of luck.

People wishing to donate to the challenge were urged to visit or text RUN to 70007 to donate £5 plus a message of support to Sir Ranulph.


From Belfast Telegraph