Race for Life’s ‘pink army’ marches on Portsmouth

Thousands took part in the Race for Life at Southsea, yesterday. Photo: Habibur Rahman
Thousands took part in the Race for Life at Southsea, yesterday. Photo: Habibur Rahman
Liza Bailey and her daughter Helen Bailey took part in Small Business Saturday last year at their florist shop Seaside Florist on Hayling Island.

Picture: Malcolm Wells

Portsmouth council backs Small Business Saturday with free parking

  • City’s fundraiser generates more than £430k for Cancer Research UK
  • More than 3,000 people Race for Life in Southsea
  • A total of 6,000 backed the city’s weekend events for cancer cause
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ORGANISERS have hailed the fundraisers supporting this year’s Race for Life in Portsmouth as ‘inspirational’.

Southsea Common was transformed into a sea of pink as more than 3,000 people packed into it to join yesterday’s spectacle.

Runners get their journeys underway at start line. Photo: Habibur Rahman

Runners get their journeys underway at start line. Photo: Habibur Rahman

The emotional event saw individuals and groups run, jog or walk 5k or 10k in aid of Cancer Research UK – raising a stunning £250,000.

And the total cash generated from the weekend, which included Saturday’s Pretty Muddy obstacle race, topped £430,000 with about 6,000 people showing their support.

Jenny Ashworth, who is part of the team behind Race for Life, said the city’s efforts had been remarkable and would help countless families battling cancer.

She said: ‘It’s been inspirational to watch – everyone’s been amazing. Portsmouth’s been great.

‘This has been a celebration of life as well as a chance to remember those that’ve died.’

Before the race began, the crowd fell silent in tribute of Portsmouth woman Natalie Turner, who died after a brave battle against cancer earlier this year.

As well as marking those who died, some also used the day to mark their own special achievements.

For incredible Christina Corp, of Stubbington, it was a chance to celebrate her own survival against the odds.

When she was 17, Christina was in a coma battling for her life after a devastating crash left her critically injured.

The horrific smash fractured her skull, causing severe brain and facial injuries and a shattered pelvis.

Doctors said if she survived she would never walk again.

Now, 13 years on from the accident, Christina battled through to complete the 5k – as well as having the honour to sound the buzzer beginning the action.

The brave 30-year-old completed the course in just over 44 minutes.

She said: ‘It feels brilliant because my friends were told I would never be able to walk again and here I am running a 5k and raising lots of money for Cancer Research.’

Among the pink army pounding through the course included Paulsgrove sisters Jade Leggett, 25, Lianne Clarke, 36, and Katie Leggett, 26.

They were running in memory their sister Sarah Leggett, who lost her fight against cancer 18 months ago – leaving behind her three young lads.

Jade said her sister fought until the very end to be with her boys – dying just days before Christmas at The Rowans Hospice.

The 25-year-old said: ‘We always used to do the Race for Life as a family. But we never thought cancer would affect us. You always think it’s going to happen to everybody else.

‘Being here today makes you realise just how many people have been touched by cancer – there could be someone in front of you that is fighting it. It’s a horrible disease.’

She added: ‘Sarah was such a fighter. Her little boy’s third birthday was at the end of November and she was determined to be there for it.

‘She was in the early stages of dying but she didn’t want to give up. She was standing on the chairs and hanging up balloons. It was incredible.’

Jacqui York was running in memory of her dad John Reeves, who lost his fight against prostate cancer three years ago, aged 82.

She was supported by friends Kim De-Gray Birch and Karen Bateman.

Jacqui, 53, of Southampton, said she was overwhelmed by how many people had been touched by cancer.

She said: ‘It is scary. But at the same time it’s really moving and uplifting to see so many people here.

‘It gives you hope that with all this help and fundraising a cure can be found. Cancer isn’t a death sentence any more and days like today are really important.’

She added the moment she heard of her dad’s diagnosis is something she will never be able to forget.

‘It was a horrible thing to go through,’ she said. ‘It was shocking to start with.

‘He was larger than life and full of fun. Even when he was told he had cancer he took it in his stride.’

Grateful Laura Sandon was taking part as a way of saying thank-you for those who helped her husband Ian survive his cancer diagnosis.

Speaking of the moment she found out about her husband’s cancer, she said: ‘It was awful. It’s the worst thing you can ever go through.

‘To think you’re going to lose that person, it was just horrifying.’

The event was open to women and children of all ages.

Most people wore pink. However, some taking part slipped into fancy dress, with everything from flamingos and fairies braving the blistering heat along the seafront.

While one contingent went round the whole 10k course – dancing with hula hoops non-stop.

Asthmatic Fiona Fisher, 53, of Gosport, was among the band tackling the 5k route and said the atmosphere on the day was ‘incredible’.

She was running in memory of her mother, Fiona Paul, after being diagnosed with cancer in 1996, aged 60.

Fiona said: ‘I hope I have her strength.

‘Losing her at such a young age was hard. It’s a feeling that never leaves you.

‘You can go about day to day but it does come back and hit you with a thump.

‘It really is quite a nasty disease. So to know that everybody here has been touched by cancer in one way or another is awful.’

All the donations from the event will go towards Cancer Research UK.

The charity says that every two minutes somebody in the UK is diagnosed with cancer.

An estimated 2.5 million people in the UK are living with cancer – a figure set to rise to four million by 2030.

To support Cancer Research UK see, cancerresearchuk.org