Marathon Men Complete Epic 45,183 Mile Land Rover 7x7x7 Challenge

NEW YORK, Nov. 2, 2003 -- Shortly after 23:45 GMT today, world celebrated explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his long-time expedition companion, Dr. Mike Stroud, made endurance history at the ING New York City Marathon finish line after successfully completing the Land Rover 7x7x7 Challenge, an epic around-the-world trip consisting of seven marathons on seven continents in seven days.

The epic undertaking, spanning 183 marathon miles and approximately 45,000 miles of ground and air travel began at London Heathrow airport on Tuesday, October 21st with a long and complex journey to the Antarctic. Stage one, originally scheduled for King George Island on Sunday, October 26th, was unexpectedly canceled due to a blizzard, a brief run-in with the Chilean Air Force and engine troubles.

"Frankly, we were concerned the Challenge would end before we could even attempt mile one. We have roughly 170 hours to complete our entire journey and each delay along the route can prove to be paramount," explained Sir Ranulph.

However, arrangements were quickly made to move the start to Patagonia in southern Chile. A 26-mile course along the waters of the Magellan Strait was quickly created and the runners set out promptly at 21:00 GMT. 3 hours and 45 minutes later, the fist leg was complete and Dr. Stroud and Sir Ranulph were quickly whisked to a waiting plane that shuttled them to the Falkland Islands, a makeshift replacement for the missed Antarctic leg.

At 14:00 GMT on October 27, a mere 12 hours after the completion of stage one, the two set out through abandoned minefields of Mount Pleasant enroute to the finish in Stanley, Britain's southernmost city, 4 hours and 31 minutes later.

Following a brief shower and bite to eat, the entire crew boarded a British Airways flight bound for Sydney, allowing for a 12 hour rest before starting a course from Sydney Opera House across the Harbour Bridge and through the Royal Botanical Gardens. The team was aided in the third leg by a large battalion of local runners, setting the pace through three laps of the course and leading them to a 4 hour and 41 minute finish.

Thursday, October 30th saw the arrival of the most grueling stage to-date, set in the heart of downtown Singapore. Because of a delay with their Sydney arrival the previous day, Sir Ranulph and Dr. Stroud were unable to avoid Singapore's punishing mid-day heat and shortly after the start, Dr. Stroud was forced to seek brief medical attention before arriving nearly 42 minutes after Sir Ranulph's 5 hour and 24 minute finish.

After completing his fourth marathon in as many days, Dr. Stroud, 48, noted, "Today was by far the worst endurance challenge I have faced with Ran. The effects of the constant physical exertion and lack of recovery time caused by piling schedule delays have become nearly unmanageable. I do, however, intend to make every effort to continue."

Arriving back at London Heathrow nine days after their original departure, the team set out at 07:30 GMT on Friday's fifth stage, following the route of the first Olympic marathon in 1908. Traveling from Castle Hill in Windsor through Eton and onto the throng of friends and family who waited to greet Sir Ranulph in White City 4 hours and 42 minutes later. Dr. Stroud, still recovering from the 90 degrees Fahrenheit Singapore heat and walking part of the course, finished in 5 hours and 15 minutes. With the end of 7x7x7 now in sight, Sir Ranulph and Dr. Stroud caught an evening flight to Cairo where stage six got underway at midnight beneath the Great Pyramids.

By avoiding Egypt's searing daytime heat, the pair managed to complete the stage faster than originally anticipated, with Sir Ranulph reaching the finish in 4 hours and 15 minutes and Dr. Stroud trailing 25 minutes behind. It was then onto the Cairo airport for an early morning flight bound for New York City, site of the annual ING Marathon and the final 26.2 miles of their quest. Following a short night's rest, the physically drained team loaded up for one final Land Rover convoy then took their place among 30,000 other runners for the 15:10 GMT start. Despite unusually warm temperatures topping 70 degrees Fahrenheit, Fiennes and Stroud welcomed the added energy of the crowds as they made their way through Manhattan's five boroughs towards the Central Park Finish, crossing the finish line in 5 hours and 25 minutes.

Following the conclusion of the once unfathomable journey, a jovial Sir Ranulph told assembled media that, "In hindsight, I should have never let Mike talk me into this, but I'm pleased it's finally over. Despite the pain, heat and sheer exhaustion, even looking back now, the experience has been nothing but incredible!"

The 7x7x7 Challenge comes just four months after Sir Ranulph suffered a heart attack and had to undergo double bypass surgery, making each stage all the more challenging.

About the operation, Sir Ranulph, said: "Luckily, the bypass operation and the care I received have given me back the kind of life I think of as normal. It's a fairly routine operation today - but only a few years ago, it was being pioneered by the British Heart Foundation, whose work I've come to admire greatly, and I am delighted to be back in a position to support this very important charity." The Land Rover 7x7x7 Challenge is expected to raise a six-figure sum through donations to the BHF.

Throughout the quest, Land Rover vehicles were used to carry the runners and their equipment to marathon starting points, using their off-road ability to follow the most direct routes. Carrying the pair from country to country was British Airways and LanChile, without whose in-flight comfort, exhaustion would have certainly cut the challenge short.

You can donate to the Land Rover 7x7x7 Challenge fund and support the British Heart Foundation online at www.bhf.org.uk/7x7x7 or by mail: Land Rover 7x7x7 Challenge, BHF, 14 Fitzhardinge Street, London W1H 6HD.

Land Rover North America is part of Aston Martin Jaguar Land Rover with headquarters in Irvine, California. Land Rover established operations in the US in 1986, and now imports and distributes Range Rover, Discovery, and Freelander vehicles manufactured by Land Rover in Solihull, England. Land Rover's worldwide operations are wholly owned by Ford Motor Company, Dearborn, Michigan. For more information about the Land Rover retailer nearest you, call 800-FINE-4WD or log on to www.LandRover.com .

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