Meet the 71-year-old explorer taking on the toughest race in the world

Is he taking on a challenge too far?

Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet of Banbury, OBE, is the quintessential British explorer. He has been to every corner of the globe, climbed Everest at the age of 65 and lost fingers to frostbite on a trip to the North Pole. Now 71, his latest endeavour will be unparalleled in difficulty.

What is it?

He is set to take part in the Marathon des Sables in Morocco. Dubbed the “toughest foot race on Earth”, participants run 156 miles across the Sahara in six days – with temperatures reaching 50C. If that weren’t tough enough, Sir Ranulph has in recent years had two heart attacks and a double cardiac bypass.

Sounds gruelling.

It is. About 1,000 people take part in the marathon every year, and Sir Ranulph will be the oldest Briton ever to take part. Experts say it is a tougher challenge than his missions to the Pole, where it can actually be easy to keep warm, because sunstroke poses a major risk in the desert.

Is he worried?

He said: “You just have to say, ‘I’m not going to be the first to stop.’ You cannot be sure you’re going to succeed. But what you’ve got to do is beat the weak voice that comes into your head when you’re really knackered.”

Well he was never going to be content playing bridge. What’s more, he hopes to raise £2.5m for Marie Curie Cancer Care, adding to the astonishing sum of £16m has brought in for the charity over the years.

And he’s training hard?

Fiennes, a former soldier with the Royal Scots Greys and the SAS, has enlisted the help of Welsh “ultra-runner” Rory Coleman, who has completed the Marathon des Sables 11 times. Of the task ahead, Coleman said: “It’s my job to get him to the finish line safely and in one piece.”

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