A keen runner from Pool-in-Wharfedale is preparing to tackle a desert challenge that has been labelled “the toughest foot race on earth”.

Twenty-seven-year-old Neal Edmondson will strive to cover 156 miles on foot through the searing heat of the Moroccan Sahara in April.

Neal, an account manager with Kelda Water Services, is competing in the Marathon des Sables to raise money for The Children’s Air Ambulance.

The new charity provides emergency transport for children across the UK – a cause close to Neal’s heart as his baby nephew Wilf, now ten months old and thriving, needed around-the-clock care after being born 14 weeks premature.

He said: “I know I have taken on an enormous challenge. A lot of my friends think I’m crazy!

“Put simply, I’m attempting to run the equivalent of Leeds to Whitby and back in 45°C heat, carrying roughly a 10kg backpack.

“But if I can raise a lot of money for The Children’s Air Ambulance, all the hard work will be worth it.

“I used to compete in the Modern Pentathlon and run to quite a high level in my teens.

“After a knee injury and operation, I was keen to get back to full fitness and wanted to really push myself by attempting something that I could be proud of for the rest of my life. When my friend suggested the Marathon des Sables, my mind was made up.”

Neal has completed a series of gruelling runs in the UK, including the 46-mile Brecon Beacons Ultra Marathon and 127 miles along the famous canal from Liverpool to Leeds in preparation for the six-day challenge.

He is being backed by his fiancée, Faye, family and friends and sponsored by several companies including Parkers Promotional Products, Snugpak and Likeys Outdoor Gear.

To support Neal’s fundraising efforts, go to www.justgiving.com/nealmds2014