THREE friends who set themselves the gruelling challenge of running 48 miles in 48 hours around their County Durham hometown set off on their first of 12 runs this morning.

The trio will together run four miles, every four hours, for 48 hours, around the streets of Sedgefield in what will be a punishing test of their stamina, strength and endurance, both physically and mentally.

Catherine Sutcliffe, Jo Bowman and Kate Stanley are running to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer, in memory of Kate’s father David Bowman who died of the so-called Silent Killer ten years ago at 67-years-old.

The women’s challenge has garnered the support of their children’s two local schools, with teachers from Wynyard Church of England Primary School and Sedgefield Primary School set to join them on one of the runs.

Year three pupils, including Kate’s son James, will also get involved.

Jo, from St Edmunds Manor, Sedgefield, said: “The support has been incredible, with teachers and friends wanting to join us on some of the runs, and donations from people who have been affected by pancreatic cancer in their own lives.”

Some 10,300 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year; 28 new cases each day. It is known as the silent killer because it is extremely hard to spot, meaning 80 percent of cases are diagnosed at a late stage, when the cancer is too advanced to treat successfully.

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Kate’s father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January 2011 and died just four weeks later in the February.

“No sooner had the hospital doctor uttered the words, than it started to show its true colours. With ferocious speed, it took every ounce of his strength and ravaged his body,” said the mother-of-four from Church View, Sedgefield.

“Within 14 days, he was bedbound; within 20, he couldn’t eat; on day 28, he died in my mother’s arms early one morning while I lay in the bed next door and wept. He was robbed of his golden years of retirement and grandchildren.”

She said research into the disease has been underfunded for decades, receiving only three per cent of the UK cancer research budget.

“Funding is paramount to support research into early diagnostic tools, so that those who face pancreatic cancer in the future have a chance against this deadly disease,” said Kate, 40.

The three women, who will run 12 four-mile runs, finishing with their final run at 5am on Friday, have already raised more than £2,700 for Pancreatic Cancer UK.

The gruelling 4x4x48 challenge was inspired by ex-Navy Seal and ultramarathon runner David Goggins and aims to push challengers to the limits by running around the clock with little chance of rest and recovery.

Catherine, from the Meadows, Sedgefield, said: “It wouldn’t be a challenge worth doing if it didn’t push us to the max.

"We have trained hard over the past few months, clocking up hundreds of miles in our legs, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t nervous.”

To support the women and donate visit and follow ‘48 in 48 for Cancer’ on Instagram and Facebook.

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