What it’s like to train Sir Ranulph Fiennes

International Performance Coach Rory Coleman, a professional running coach and ultra-athlete, is training Sir Ranulph Fiennes to run the Marathon des Sables, the toughest footrace on earth, to raise money for Marie Curie. Rory has run the Marathon des Sables 11 times, and is doing it again in 2015. He’s telling us all about the race, covering the highs and lows, and everything in-between. Sir Ranulph Fiennes training As a coach, Sir Ranulph Fiennes is the ‘Dream Ticket’. An opportunity to meet an inspirational hero of mine, a chance to meet a real-life James Bond and an invitation to be part of his next life chapter. What could be better than that?

Fighting fit for the desert

There are 1,500 Marathon des Sables competitors this year, from all over the world, and I’ve been coaching 100 of them, all Brits. 99 of them have followed my usual training schedules, fitness tests and preparation races to get them fighting fit for the desert. Sir Ranulph’s preparation has been rather different though. It has to be, he’s 71 after all. He’s also suffered two heart attacks, had a double heart by-pass and survived cancer surgery. My approach has been one of great care and gentle progression. Sir Ranulph is a very loveable man and I have massive respect for all his life achievements so I don’t want to endanger his health. I also want him to be as comfortable as possible during the extremes of the desert. And, rather selfishly, I don’t want to be the coach that finished off one of the nation’s most widely known personalities.

Building up Sir Ranulph’s endurance

Normally, during the training process leading up to the race, I add longer distances, harder gym sessions and faster racing. For Sir Ranulph though, this isn’t the best approach. At his age it’s difficult to see how speeding him up would be any benefit to his training. What I’ve been working on with him is his endurance. My way of thinking is to try and get him to run very, very slowly in training so that during the race he doesn’t have to walk as much in the extreme 50°C+ heat. This’ll be a bonus because he recently told me that he doesn’t like the heat that much and getting hyperthermic (too hot) is his biggest worry. Am I worried about him keeping up in training and during the race? Not one bit! We’re talking Sir Ranulph Fiennes here. I knew from reading about him that mental strength was his forte and now I’ve witnessed it for myself. He’s followed my ‘four one-hour runs, one four-hour run a week’ schedule religiously, even during his globetrotting speaking tours. As for overall fitness, well, we’ve been in the labs and I’ve personally made sure that he’s fit enough to complete the Marathon des Sables, which he will, of course.

We’ll run our own races

I’m there again this year but I’m not going to hold Sir Ranulph’s hand (or what’s left of it) as he’s there to complete it on his own. At 71, it’s going to be a remarkable feat and if you have parents or grandparents of a similar age, just think if they could do it. Until the race, I’m going to keep Sir Ranulph ticking over and he’ll follow my training to the letter. That’s the best part of working with him. Personally I can’t wait to see the man Guinness World Records called ‘The World's Greatest Living Explorer’ take on the World’s Toughest Footrace. You can support Sir Ranulph Fiennes in his latest challenge by donating on his JustGiving page.

Enjoying our Marathon des Sables blogs? Take a look at our previous blogs: Jogging and running for beginnersThe most memorable years of the Marathon des SablesEssential kit for the Marathon des SablesThe dangers of the Marathon des Sables and What it’s like to run the Marathon des Sables.