AS Diana Ruffels pounds around the Oxford Town and Gown course on Sunday, she will be looking out for one special face.

Among the family and friends turning out to support her will be her 16-year-old niece, Sarah Avery – her inspiration for taking part in the 10km run.

Sarah, who lives in Blackbird Leys, has complicated health problems which include scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy.

The town and gown run is a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, which has provided help and support for the youngster.

Mrs Ruffels, 49, from Tackley, said: “Sarah and her three sisters will come to watch me and it will be nice to see her cheering me on – it’s also nice for them to get out together.”

It is the third time Mrs Ruffels has taken part in the race. The first two times were with brother David, Sarah’s uncle, in support of their niece.

She said she hoped mainly to raise the awareness and profile of muscular dystrophy, which encompasses a wide range of different conditions and can be difficult to diagnose.

Mrs Ruffels said: “When Sarah was first diagnosed, they thought the main problem was muscular dystrophy but it now seems a lot of her muscular problems are from cerebral palsy.

“I think it was trial and error as to what she had got, but the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign have given support, particularly in the early days.”

Mrs Ruffels will not have her running partner this year as her brother has ruptured his knee, so will be on the sidelines cheering.

She said: “It’s a lovely flat course and you get support all the way round.

“It’s particularly nice knowing what it's all for, it makes all the training worthwhile.”

This will be the 31st Oxford Town and Gown, and it is hoped 3,500 people will take part on Sunday. More than 3,000 have signed up already.

Since it launched, runners have raised £1m for the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, and organisers are now setting their sights on raising a second million – with this year’s fundraising target set at £120,000.

* For more information on the race or to enter, email or phone 0207 803 4820.