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Marathon Running Motivation
Global Mission Accomplished With
7 Marathons in 7 Days

By RON DICKER - from the New York Times

They originally planned to climb Mount Everest. They settled for this.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Dr. Michael Stroud, a pair of British explorers, completed a most improbable globe-trotting endurance feat in the New York City Marathon yesterday.

Carrying a miniature defibrillator for Fiennes, who had double-bypass heart surgery last June, they finished their seventh marathon in seven days on almost seven continents. They had to forgo their first leg in Antarctica for a marathon in the Patagonia region of southern Chile because of weather problems. But who wants to quibble on a technicality?

"It was the best proxy we could manage," said Stroud, 48, who hatched the idea of their odyssey.

Fiennes walked into the news media center overlooking Central Park looking as if he had gone for a jog. They finished in 5 hours 25 minutes 46 seconds.

"I don't feel too tired," said Fiennes, 59, who held back so he could cross the finish line with Stroud, who was laboring because of blisters, jet lag and severe muscle damage.

Their itinerary alone would exhaust most travelers. Beginning with Patagonia last Monday, they ran specially arranged marathons in the Falkland Islands on Tuesday, in Sydney, Australia, on Wednesday, in Singapore on Thursday, in London on Friday and in Cairo on Saturday — running at midnight beneath the Great Pyramids — before arriving in New York on Saturday night.

"This has been enjoyable throughout except for the bits of running," Fiennes said.

They recorded their fastest time, 4:31, in the Falklands. Their most trying segment, they said, was in sauna-like conditions in Singapore, where they sustained dehydration.

Stroud was the worse for the wear. A blood test before yesterday's race revealed that his muscles were frayed far more than Fiennes's.

The only thing Fiennes complained about was a circulatory condition that keeps his right hand cold.

They were scheduled to fly back to England last night. "A cup of tea would go down well," Stroud said.

Fiennes thanked his heart surgeon, David Smith, for assuming the risk of being blamed if Fiennes had a relapse. Smith's only instructions were to keep his heart rate under 130 beats a minute, said Fiennes, a relative of the actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes.

Fiennes, whom the Guinness Book of World Records calls "the world's greatest living explorer," met Stroud in 1982 when they became the first men to cross Antarctica on foot. They live about 200 miles apart — Fiennes near Exeter, Stroud near London — but bar bets and dares have fueled their friendship.

"We're the sort of people who like a challenge," Stroud said. "When one of us is getting despondent, then the other one usually pulls us through."

Fiennes said, "I would not advise any friends of mine to attempt it."

Stroud, a gastroenterologist, originally planned to scale Everest with Fiennes. Time constraints interfered, so Stroud searched for a venture that would span a week. He came up with the 7-7-7 idea from a man who had completed marathons on all seven continents, but he required 91 days and entered only official races.

New York was the only sanctioned race that Fiennes and Stroud ran, and they were trailed by members of the British news media the entire way.

Land Rover sponsored them, and they used the race to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. British Airways provided in-flight beds on many segments of the journey to help them fend off exhaustion, but the traveling was not always smooth.

They waited for days for a blizzard to clear over Antarctica to complete the first run. When it finally did, their plane sputtered through engine failure and they never left the ground. Despite their slow start, each of them logged 183.4 running miles and 45,000 miles of air and ground travel.

Consider their odyssey complete.

"Why would I want to do it again?" Stroud said.

They have not decided on their next adventure.

"I'll ring him up next year," Fiennes said.

Stroud replied, "I may not answer."

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