THREE runners have got their sights set on Rome for their mission to raise thousands of pounds for a Hampshire charity.

Jerry Dugdale, a trustee of The XLP Research Trust, is travelling to the Italian capital with two others in March to take part in the Rome Marathon.

His wife Elspeth, 45, and Phil Ball, 44, will accompany him for the challenge.

They are running in support of The XLP Research Trust, a charity run by their friends David and Allison Hartley.

The Hartleys, from Romsey, set up the trust after their four sons were all diagnosed with the rare and life-threatening X-linked lymphoproliferative syndrome (XLP) in November 2003.

Property developer Jerry, 45, said: "I am not a runner so I am finding it gruelling, forcing myself to run.

"I had forgotten that Rome is a city of hills as well!

"But it is such a good cause - that is what is motivating me."

Both Elspeth and Phil have run marathons before but Rome will be Jerry's first. The three runners, all from Braishfield near Romsey, hope to raise more than £5,000.

The trust was set up just over a year ago to support families affected by XLP.

The genetic condition, also known as Duncan's Disease, leaves sufferers with no immunity to illnesses such as severe glandular fever and cancer of the blood. The only cure is a bone marrow transplant.

Three of the Hartley boys - Joshua, 15, Nathan, 13, and 10-year-old Daniel - have already had successful transplants.

Luke, seven, is due to have his transplant from his brother Nathan - in March.