Craven children resolved to start the New Year with a challenge – by running 268 miles.

Almost 1,600 pupils across the county are aiming to match Bentham runner Andy Mouncey’s mileage as he embarks on the gruelling 268- miles, seven-day Spine Challenge over the Pennine Way which began on Saturday.

Craven primary schools in Cowling, Grassington, Kirkby Malham and Horton-in-Ribblesdale as well as secondary school, Settle College, are all part of the initiative which aims to encourage children to develop the skills of goal setting and perseverance as well as boosting fitness levels. In all, 13 schools along the Pennine Way are involved.

Cowling headteacher Sue Marshall said: “The children are raring to go. Our pupils are ready for a challenge and the whole school community is involved, including teachers, parents and governors.

“We are determined to reach the 268-mile total and learn the skill of persevering, no matter how hard something is, to reach a goal.

“These are life skills and Andy’s race is inspiring us all to push ourselves, work hard, try new things and not give up.”

In the primary schools, pupils run collaboratively each week and combine their mileage totals in the hope of reaching the 268-mile distance.

In addition, they are asked to think about the mindset runners need to complete the challenge and how they can overcome difficulties, such as the extreme cold and the desire to give in.

Pupils will also consider the maths involved in the race, such as mileage and speed required each day, as well as key items needed in their emergency rucksack and the design of the support vehicle.

Billed as Britain’s most gruelling winter event, The Spine Race challenges runners to complete the 268 miles in just seven days. At its highest point, the race reaches 893 metres and covers a total climb of 11,759 metres. Last year the winning time was five days and five hours.

First held in 2012, just three people finished the inaugural race. Last January, in freezing weather conditions, Andy reached 105 miles before being forced to stop. However, in 2014 he is determined to finish the job and inspire children along the way.

“I have been working with the schools to help pupils think and act like an endurance athlete. I hope it will encourage them to keep going and to push themselves when they find themselves in situations, whether they be sporting or academic, which are challenging,” Andy said.

The schools are aiming to run the 268 miles by March, finishing with the Sport Relief Mile on March 19.

Youngsters are asked to collect sponsorship in aid of Sport Relief and also to keep a diary, blog or make a film of their experience.