A WOMAN is getting ready to finish a year of extreme running challenges by taking on one of the country's toughest "ultra" marathons.

Sonya Macdonald, from Durham, who only started running three years ago, has covered more than 1,300 miles this year, braving snow, rain and 40mph winds to raise money for charity.

The 39-year-old mum will finish her year of fundraising by taking part in the 50k Kielder Ultra Marathon on Saturday.

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She was inspired to raise money for the ME Association after her sister Davina was diagnosed with the debilitating condition, which causes extreme exhaustion.

She said: “When Davina was diagnosed with ME, I felt helpless because there was nothing I could do. You watch someone you love struggle, and see how it affects them, and you feel powerless.

“By doing these runs over the past 12 months, I at least felt I was doing something.”

Mrs Macdonald, a social worker for Durham County Council, started running in 2014, and has completed 15 running challenges since May last year, so far raising more than £700 for the charity.

Some of the events she has taken part include the Ultra Trail Marathon – 29.5 miles covering terrain including sand, ankle seep mud and bogs with knee deep water, a run up Hedgehope in North Northumberland, the second highest peak in the region and the Hardmoors Roseberry Topping Marathon.

She added: “I just caught the running bug. But sometimes it’s hard. There was one race last year and I thought: ‘What am I doing? It was uphill, along cliffs, then weather turned and it was freezing and wet.

“My fingers were numb through three pairs of gloves. So I do sometimes think about a hot bath and cup of tea at the end of it. But when it gets really tough, I think about Davina.

“Her illness makes me very aware that I should be grateful for my own health and appreciate it.”

The ME Association supports patients and funds research into the physical causes of the condition, which affects 250,000 people in the UK.

Helen Hyland, fundraising manager for the ME Association, said: “Sonya is amazing, as a fundraiser, an athlete – and most importantly - as a sister. We can’t thank her enough.”