A 75-year-old has become the oldest Brit to run an ultra-marathon in the Sahara Desert – taking the record from Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
Sir Ranulph completed the Marathon Des Sables in 2015, aged 71, but lost his title to David Exell who crossed the finishing line on Good Friday.
The hardy pensioner took only six days to run more than 251 kilometres – approximately six marathons – across the vast expanse of sand in southern Morocco.
Runners faced the prospect of soaring temperatures, reaching up to 45 degrees Celsius, sandstorms and the threat of dehydration, and were required to carry their own provisions in rucksacks on their backs.
It was considered one of the most dangerous running competitions in the world, but Mr Exell, who once took part in the Everest marathon, was unfazed.
He had trekked across the Pyrenees and Himalayas, and trained for the race by running in the Mendip Hills, near his home in Wrington, Somerset, with his pet Labrador, Dora.
Mr Exell’s family were glued to a webcam which tracked his progress, as they watched him stay ahead of a camel, which would disqualify him from the competition if it overtook him.
He said: “I’m feeling pretty good, I’m a bit tired.
“Sir Ranulph is not a close friend, I’m afraid, but that was one of the little challenges I set myself. It was really trying to raise money for charity.”
Daughter Lucy Coetzee said she was “amazingly proud” of her father.
She said: “They have quite a full-on website and we could keep an eye on all of his checkpoints.
“He had to stay ahead of a camel which, if it overtook any competitor before they reached a checkpoint, meant they were out of the race.
“It’s amazing. I had a chat with him and he is extremely emotional about it all but he managed to get round without any pain or injuries.”
The pensioner had the backing of previous record-holder Sir Ranulph in his bid to claim the title of oldest Englishman to run the treacherous race.
He managed to get through the ordeal without incurring any injuries, and camped in a tent shared with three pals from the south west.
Updating a blog written by the perspective of his pooch, Dora, Mr Exell wrote: “Well, it looks as though old weedy white legs has done it.
“Each of those legs is seventy-five and a quarter years old, and now he is the oldest Brit to complete the Marathon des Sables.
“I’ll have to return those bones and tasty bits of chicken, fans, because I won’t be training anyone else. Thanks for all your interest, but I’m a one man kind of dog.
“Eat your heart out, Sir Ranulph.”
Mr Exell raised more than £10,000 for charities the Bristol Area Stroke Foundation and Mountain Rescue England & Wales.