Fitness couple set for boiling run in the sun

Louise Burnell and Ross O'Donnell are gearing up for the Marathon des Sables in April.
Louise Burnell and Ross O'Donnell are gearing up for the Marathon des Sables in April.

A fitness-mad couple are stepping up to tackle the “toughest footrace on earth.”

Louise Burnell, 34, and Ross O’Donnell, 24, from East Ardsley, face a 251km run across the Sahara desert.

They will join 1,200 other runners on the Marathon des Sables between April 8 and 18.

The couple, who are aiming to raise £15,000 for Yorkshire Cancer Research, have been training for the past seven months for the gruelling multi-stage adventure race in sweltering 50-degree heat.

Louise said: “This is a challenge that neither of us ever really planned to do – but after hearing Sir Ranulph Fiennes talk about his own experience of the race, we knew we had to take part. It’s been tough so far, but the closer we get the more the adrenalin starts pumping and we’re determined to do a good job.

“Training has been intensifying over the past few weeks, we’re running between 100 and 140km a week - which sounds a lot but we’ll have to cover 250km over seven days in the desert! We’re also training with our heavy bags to get used to the weight we’ll be carrying when we’re there.”

So far, the couple has raised £9,900 through events like girly pamper days, football tournaments, a sponsored ’spinathon’ at Bannatynes Gym in Wakefield.

Tomorrow friends and family of both are set to come together to tackle the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge.

They’ve also received donations from businesses, including Farpod, Creative Hair and Beauty, Booth & Co and Valentino’s Wakefield.

Ross added: “Yorkshire Cancer Research is a cause that’s close to our hearts. We’ll be running in memory of Laura Loftus and others who have sadly lost their battle with the horrible disease.” You can donate via