A COUCH to 5k graduate is set to take on her first marathon in aid of a charity close to her heart.

Amanda Pettitt, of Stainton Village, near Barnard Castle, started her running journey three-and-a-half years ago with a local Couch to 5k group.

Since then she has built up her fitness and is now set to take on the London Marathon with her husband, Simon, next weekend.

The couple are running the 26.2mile race for Muscular Dystrophy UK (MD UK) which helps people of all ages with muscle-wasting conditions as well as funding vital research.

Mr and Mrs Pettitt, who both work as data administrators, were inspired to take on the challenge by their niece, Ruby.

The seven-year-old suffers with Central Core Disease which is a disorder that affects the muscles used for movement. The condition causes persistent muscle weakness that predominantly impacts Ruby's legs.

Mrs Pettitt said Ruby was born with hip dysplasia and it was during the surgery that the symptoms of central core disease were noticed.

Doctors told the family Ruby might never walk but she has continued to prove them wrong and even takes part in ballet lessons with an aid.

Mrs Pettitt said: "Ruby is an amazing young girl that allows nothing to prevent her enjoying activities as much as any other young child her age.

"Despite requiring a walker from a very early age Ruby has been hugely determined and for example attends dance classes - with the use of her walker - to join in with her peers.

"My brother Michael and sister-in-law Nassera have equally been amazing in the way they have and continue to deal with the challenges Ruby's illness brings. They utilise resources through MD for information and support.

"Ruby is an inspiration and this has led me to taking the decision to challenge myself to do something neither I nor many who know would have ever thought I would contemplate."

Mr and Mrs Pettitt, with the support of their local running club, Teesdale Athletic Club, have been raising funds ahead of the race with everything from a Halloween party to Abba-themed nights.

They have set themselves the target of raising £4,000 and say they are well on-track to achieving their goal.

Mrs Pettitt, 53, said: "It's getting nearer and exciting and we are really pleased with being on track for our fundraising."

She added: "Everyone has been so supportive and we have just done events in our local village hall."

The couple will also be joined by fellow Teesdale Athletic Club member, Andrew Crawley, who is also taking on his first marathon.

Mr and Mrs Pettitt will be running in orange MD tops while Mrs Pettitt also has a pair of 'lucky' orange trousers with London landmarks on them.

To donate visit justgiving.com/fundraising/amanda-pettittlondonmarathon2019