This weekend, Sunderland business student and mum-of-two Lauren Flaxen is setting herself the target of running four miles, every four hours through the night for 52 hours.

The 36-year-old, from Fulwell, has been inspired to take on the gruelling 44U challenge by families who have had to overcome a new set of challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic to support their loved ones through their cancer treatment.

“This year has been a pretty tough year,” Lauren said.

“So, I decided I wanted to give something back to people who are going through cancer treatment as well as pay tribute to those who have sadly lost their lives to the disease.

“Covid-19 has removed support circles, the strength you get from a hug and having someone by your side in your final moments to say goodbye.

“To receive a diagnosis alone, have treatment alone and to have a loved one in hospital knowing you are unlikely to see them again is unimaginable.”

Lauren, who will be joined on the run by her boyfriend Andrew Fowler, will dedicate every four-hour block to a family who have been affected by cancer, dropping off something special on their doorsteps along the way.

Among them is 39-year-old Kirsty Laing, who is receiving treatment for breast cancer.

Kirsty, who turns 40 on Saturday, said: “Having cancer during a pandemic is a very isolating and frightening experience.

“You can’t share your journey because you have to go to everything on your own. Support services are all online or over the phone.

“Every single clinician has gone above and beyond to make sure our care is still prioritised, though. I will be forever in their debt.”

Lauren is studying Business and Human Resource Management at the University of Sunderland while working part-time as a supply teacher.

Due to the pandemic, Lauren’s lecturer, Allison Abbott, has been unable to travel to Australia to visit her mum, who has cancer, while her sister has just recovered from it.

Allison said: “I was amazed when Lauren told me that I had played a part in motivating her to do this challenge.

“Cancer is affecting so many families and this shows what great students we have at Sunderland, who are going above and beyond to help others. We are all so proud.”

Lauren and Andrew set off from Fulwell at 7am on Saturday, finishing at Roker beach at 11am on Monday.

The challenge is raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

To find out more or to make a donation, click here.