msnbc.com news services
updated 11/3/2003 2:51:19 AM ET 2003-11-03T07:51:19

Two British adventurers accomplished what seems impossible. They ran seven marathons in seven days on six continents, finishing up in New York on Sunday. Sir Ranulph Fiennes and longtime expedition partner Mike Stroud crossed the New York City Marathon finish line in 5 hours, 25 minutes, 46 seconds, ending their weeklong journey.

The had arrived in New York late Saturday night after completing an overnight marathon past Egypt’s ancient pyramids and through empty Cairo streets.

“We’re the sort of people that like a challenge,” Stroud said. “Instead of we can’t, we say, ’Why can’t we?”’

In all, the pair ran 183 miles and had about 45,000 miles of air and ground travel.

The idea started when Fiennes — who is related to actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes (pronounced “fine”) — called Stroud in January and asked if he wanted to scale Mount Everest. Stroud, a doctor, said he did not have time for such a trip because of his schedule. So he proposed running seven marathons in seven days on seven continents.

The trip was nearly derailed in June, when Fiennes had double bypass surgery following a heart attack. Instead of canceling the trip, Fiennes said he wanted to go run. His doctor gave him the go ahead.

COULDN’T GET TO ANTARCTICA

They were going to start in Antarctica, but they had engine trouble and could not make it to the continent. So they started in Patagonia in southern Chile and ran a 26-mile course along the waters of the Magellan Strait in 3:45.

The next leg was on the Falkland Islands, a makeshift replacement for the missed Antarctic leg which they completed in 4:31.

Up next were marathons in Sydney and then Singapore, the toughest of them all. Running through 90-degree heat, Stroud needed medical attention briefly and finished 42 minutes after Ranulph’s 5:24.

“I felt I was a goner,” Fiennes said.

UNDAUNTED

They would not give up, and traveled to London, where they followed the route of the first Olympic marathon in 1908. After that they traveled to Cairo and the headed to New York, where they would run the only organized marathon of their trip.

Stroud carried a mini-defibrilator with him in case Fiennes started feeling ill. Stroud had ailments of his own. He lost the nail on his big toe and was urinating blood.

The 59-year-old Fiennes was once described by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “world’s greatest living explorer” for leading more than 30 expeditions, including the first polar circumnavigation of the Earth, in 1982.

Fiennes has survived the torment of gangrene at the North Pole, dodged bullets in the Middle East, trekked across the Andes and canoed up the Amazon. In 1993 he and Stroud became the first men to cross the Antarctic unsupported on foot.

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