A MARATHON star whose local postie inspired her love for running has urged jogging junkies and sport-phobics to tackle 26 miles for a life-enhancing hospice.

Sobell House, which provides palliative care for terminally ill people, has launched its '40 for 40' marathon challenge ahead of its 40th anniversary in May.

Famed runner Mara Yamauchi, who grew up in Oxford, has backed the campaign that hopes to get fundraisers to complete a total of 40 marathons to raise £40,000 for the Headington hospice.

The British long distance runner, who set the second-fastest time for a woman to complete a marathon, said: "It's a great way to encourage people to think about running. A marathon is a huge challenge to take on but knowing you are contributing to such a worthwhile cause is certainly something which will spur you on.

"My advice for runners who experience that 'hitting the wall' feeling is to stay focused on the goal in sight, the money you’re raising and most importantly the people it’s helping now."

The former Headington Road Runner said her childhood postman Tony Locke, who has signed up for a 40 for 40 marathon, triggered her to pull on her trainers as he would always run his rounds.

Mr Locke, who lives in Witney, will tackle the Guernsey Marathon in August.

Risinghurst resident Caroline Dean, who raised £1,700 for Sobell by running the Brighton Marathon, has also stepped up to the 40 for 40 challenge.

On her fundraising page she said: "I very sadly said goodbye to four people who were all cared for by Sobell House before the angels said it was time to go. Their families are indebted to the hospice for the wonderful care their loved ones received and for the support the hospice continues to offer them.

"The prospect of running a marathon both excites and terrifies me. But this year I have become very aware of how lucky I am to be fit and healthy. I never want to take this for granted and don't want to look back and say I wish I had run a marathon when I could."

Keen runner Kevin Game, Sobell House fundraiser, said: “For the last 40 years Sobell House has been offering care and support for patients and their families who have been affected by terminal illness.

"Every marathon that is run for Sobell House will be instrumental in reaching the target."

He encouraged runners of all abilities to take part, adding: “There is a race suitable for everyone - whether it’s off road, a trail, a big city race, overseas or a small UK marathon. There will be something out there. I can help fundraisers identify the right marathon, dependent on experience and preferred terrain, and there are a lot to choose from.”

Sobell hopes to invest £9m over the next four years to improve its services, which include both day and residential care for patients and their families.

The marathons would help to raise the remaining £4m it needs for the project, which would expand specialist palliative care across Oxfordshire's main hospitals.

Anyone interested in running one of the marathons can email kevin.game@sobellhospice.org or call 01865 857012.