TWO fearless fundraisers who plan to trek 250km across the Atacama Desert in Chile next year, got their preparations off to an early start by running the Five Valleys Walk.

Alex Keenan, 19, and Dan Guy, 30, jogged the entire 21-mile route across rugged terrain and up steep hills on Sunday to help them get into tip-top condition ahead of their daunting March expedition.

The pair, who both work at Homebase in Stroud and train together at Stratford Park Leisure Centre, are readying themselves to brave the harsh desert climate in aid of Mencap, which provides help and support to those living with learning difficulties.

They are hoping to raise a combined total of £4,000 for the charity by tackling the six-day challenge, which will see them conquer canyons, scale sand dunes and traverse rocky river beds.

Dan, a former member of the Territorial Army, ran the Five Valleys walk in 4 hours and 46 minutes, while his work colleague Alex, who recently finished a public services course at Cirencester College, completed the run in 5 hours and 5 minutes.

"It was hard work but it was good training for Chile," said Alex, who lives in King's Stanley, and is currently running 20 miles every weekend in preparation for the desert crossing.

"Dan found out about the Atacama event and I was keen to do something for charity so I said why not sign me up.

"I wanted to join the military but sadly because of a lower back problem I have not been able to.

"Luckily though I can still do lots of fitness and with this event I have the opportunity to help raise money for charity."