A WOMAN who enjoys running as her 'therapy' has completed a gruelling 24 hour ultramarathon – and despite not being prepared through training she was the first woman to finish and third overall.

Heather Ford, who, lives in Darlington but owns running shop Let's Run in Stokesley, took part in the Hardmoors 110 in memory of James Marshall, who died aged 11 of cancer.

The Hardmoors 110 Ultramarathon follows the dramatic Cleveland Way National Trail encircling the North York Moors and the Cleveland Heritage coastline.

Commencing in Filey, competitors had a time limit of 36 hours to complete the 110 mile single stage trail race, following the Cleveland coastline visiting the seaside resort of Scarborough, Robin Hood’s Bay, Dracula’s Whitby, Staithes, Runswick Bay and Saltburn, before passing through the Cleveland Hills and the North York Moors before finishing in Helmsley.

Ms Ford, 36, completed the race in 25 hours and 50 minutes – taking the trophy for first woman and third place overall.

She said: "James Marshall would have turned 18 this week. His mum is a customer in my shop and when I mentioned I was doing the ultramarathon she wanted to give me one of James' toy cars.

"She gives to cars out to people going on adventures all over the world, and it was really touching to be given one. It certainly kept me going when the running got tough. I often felt for his little car in my backpack and chatted to him along the way."

She said: "I only found out I was doing the race about three weeks before. When I've done them in the past I've put in lots of training but I haven't done as well as that – I think because I was just doing it to enjoy it I relaxed.

" I did find it very hard, and I did struggle especially at the 80 mile point. I hit a wall and thought I couldn't go on, but weirdly you just do and then all of a sudden you're running and smiling again."

Ms Ford was raising money for the Butterwick Hospice, which nursed James at the end of his life.

She added: "I think James' mum is really inspiring for being able to carry on after something so terrible, and I wanted to do well for James.

"My children Thomas, nine, and Emily, seven, are really proud and over the moon with the sword I presented with as a trophy."