A GROUP of intrepid soldiers have set off on an epic journey to run from Latvia to Belgium in eight days.

The 18 serving squaddies set off from the Baltic country on Tuesday and hope to complete the challenge by reaching Nato HQ next week.

The 1200 mile run, dubbed the 100 marathons challenge, will take in six countries and see the 16 men and two women braving temperatures as low as -10 C as they cross through Europe's heartland.

They will run in groups of six and use a support vehicle to allow runners to run 10 mile sections by relay.

The team are taking part in the run to raise money for two soldier's charities; the Royal British Legion and the Alabare-Gloucestershire Home for Veterans.

The challenge is the brainchild if lieutenant colonel Nick Abram, of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, who dreamed up the adventure a number of years ago while stationed in Bosnia.

He said: "I was a junior officer at the time when we were serving in the Balkans and one of the soldiers suggested running back to Belgium when the deployment was finished.

"It didn't happen, but the idea never left me and when we were sent to Latvia it resurfaced and I pulled together a team who wanted to do it.

"There was a bit of a carrot and stick approach, because even though this is going to be incredibly hard, the people taking part will get back to see their families a couple of days before the rest of the regiment. They were living in tents in Latvia, so there were plenty of volunteers."

The British soldiers were sent to Latvia to take part in Nato's Arrcade Fusion war games exercise. Conducted across around 75,000m of the Baltic States of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, the exercise involved 1,700 military and civilian personnel from four countries.

The team have been undergoing extensive training for the run, which crosses Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany, before finally reaching the finish line at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Belgium.

Lt Cnl Abram, who grew up in Ayrshire, said: "It's going to challenge everyone physically and mentally, but it's also going to be an incredible opportunity to see Europe in all its winter glory.

"We're well prepared with winter gear and wooly hats, and I'm looking forward to seeing the towns we pass all done up for Christmas. We're expecting snow so it will be an amazing landscape to run through, even if it's freezing cold.

"The original plan was to camp out, but we're going to stop at accomodation at night so everyone gets a rest. But the whole team will be doing three quarters of a marathon a day, so it's going to be hard."

The team can be sponsored through the justgiving website at www.justgiving.com/teams/100Marathons