Sir Ranulph Fiennes has been described as the greatest living explorer (Reuters)
Sir Ranulph Fiennes has been described as the greatest living explorer Reuters

British adventurer and explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes has become the oldest Briton to finish the Marathon des Sables, the extreme desert endurance race. In the process, he has raised nearly £1m for the cancer charity Marie Curie.

The 71-year-old reached the finish line in Morocco at 7.37pm yesterday after running an astounding 256km over six days in temperatures which regularly exceeded 50C. Fiennes was nearly forced to quit on Thursday due to heart problems prompted by physical stress.

During yesterday's final stage of what has been called "the toughest footrace on Eearth" Fiennes ran for 10 hours. Afterwards, he said: "I don't feel good, my back is bad. Luckily I've had a load of painkillers. Without them, it would have been even more difficult.

"I never thought I wouldn't make it 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' heart problems

There were concerns that the celebrated explorer might not reach the finish line after the 91km penultimate stage on Thursday, during which he ran for more than 30 hours. He described that part of the marathon as "more hellish than Hell".

Fiennes has previously survived two heart attacks. In 2003 he had a double heart bypass.

After the race, he thanked those who had donated to his fundraising cause.

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.

"His never failing commitment to finish the race and raise as much money as possible has simply been fantastic. We hope he inspires others to take on their own challenge for Marie Curie and help us care for more people living with a terminal illness."