A LONG distance runner is tackling the toughest foot race on earth in memory of a Runcorn schoolgirl.

Jo Molyneaux flew to Morroco to take part in the iconic Marathon des Sables, six marathons in six days across the Sahara Desert.

The gruelling adventure described as ‘an extraordinary race for extraordinary people in an extraordinary place’ takes runners 156 miles through endless sand dunes, over rocky jebels and across white-hot salt plains.

The intrepid 57-year-old is raising funds for Papyrus, a charity striving to prevent young suicide.

Jo, a project manager, said: “I have chosen Papyrus in memory of the much loved and beautiful 14-year-old Maisy Lewis from Sandymoor who tragically took her own life in October last year.

“Maisy was a star pupil at school and had her whole life ahead of her. Her family are absolutely devastated.”

Jo, from Northwich, heard about Maisy through her 10-year-old granddaughter Ella, who lives in Sandymoor, and attended the schoolgirl’s funeral.

Jo added: “This charity saves lives. I want to try and make sure no other family goes through what Maisy’s parents are going through.”

Maisy’s mum Kim said:”We would like to say a huge thank you to Jo for doing this amazing event in memory of our Maisy and for raising awareness and vital funds for Papyrus.

“Good luck Jo. You are incredible.”

Jo has been running for more than 20 years and has completed countless marathons, half marathons, London Marathons and 10 Ironman races.

“My most challenging race was a 370 mile cross country ski race across the Arctic.”

The demanding Sahara challenge has always been on Jo’s ‘to do’ list and she has been training for the inhospitable conditions in Lanzarote.

“It is a test of endurance,” said Jo. who will have to carry all her own food and equipment on her back.

“There are only 37 females in my age group doing it.

“The endless sand will be the hardest thing. You have to wear a bag over your shoes to stop your feet getting lacerated.

“I always have treats in my bag such as peanut butter and jelly beans for times when I am feeling low.

“You have to pace yourself. Every time you do this kind of challenge it changes you.

“I have been running for a long time and never listen to music. Instead I listen to the silence.

“This will be the hardest thing I will have ever done.”

So far, Jo has raised £1,300. To donate visit justgiving.com/fundraising/jomoly.