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Race For Life: Pink army are waging war on cancer

By Claire Williamson

Published 01/06/2015

"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Pictured is Trevor Rodgers. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Pictured are the GI Janes. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Pictured is Liz Gardner and Andrea Halls. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Pictured is Ellie Mae McConnell. Picture Mark Marlow
Thousands of people both young and old take part in the "Race for life" at Stormont Estate in Belfast. People turned out in memory of freinds,family and loved ones in order to raise funds to beat cancer. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Pictured is Janice Forsyth with Mandy Smillie and Victoria Forsyth. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Pictured is Janice Forsyth with Mandy Smillie and Victoria Forsyth. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Pictured are Rebbeca and Jessica Steele. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. ictured are Rebbeca and Jessica Steele with Mum Breffny. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Family and freinds run in memory of Callan McErlain . Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. People turned out in memory of freinds,family and loved ones in order to raise funds to beat cancer. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Pictured are Sheila and Megan Murdock with freinds taking part in the Run for life. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Pictured are Sheila and Megan Murdock taking part in the Run for life. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Sheila and Megan Murdock take part in the Run for life. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Pictured is Fiona Heggan. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Pictured is Fiona Heggan. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Pictured are Coleen and Imogen Taylor. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Pictured is Kelly McConnell. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Pictured is Janice Forsyth with Mandy Smillie and Victoria Forsyth. Picture Mark Marlow
"Race for life" at Stormont. Picture Mark Marlow

The pink army assembled and their message was clear - cancer, we are coming to get you.

The usual solemn demeanour of Stormont was livened up with an explosion of colour yesterday as a sea of pink ladies took on the Race For Life in aid of Cancer Research.

From bright, sparkly wigs to tutus and face paints - every kilometre on an otherwise dull day in May was lit up in a wash of vibrant shades of pink. But the most important part of their outfits was the name on their back of who they were running for.

Among those was four-year-old Ellie-Mae McConnell from Ballymena, who wore a T-shirt with a picture of her dad who passed away in January 2014 from testicular cancer.

Emotions were running high as thousands walked, ran, jogged or push prams along the route - each with their own special, individual motivations for taking part. There were some four-legged friends who were also decked out in their finest pink accessories.

It was the second Race For Life event of the weekend as the 'Pretty Muddy' obstacle course took place on Saturday at Ormeau Park and yesterday's 5k was followed by a 10k race which was won by Lyndsay Pronger from Belfast in 35 minutes.

So many people were taking part in the 5k that 15 minutes after the klaxon sounded there were still hundreds waiting to get going. First across the finish line was 21-year-old Sinead Currie from Dungannon - who finished the race in under 20 minutes - running in memory of her mum's best friend.

She said: "It was great because it was the anniversary yesterday so it was nice to make it."

Janice Forsythe (48) from Antrim was emotional as she said she felt proud to be part of the event in support of her sister Mandy, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in September.

She said: "Race For Life is absolutely brilliant. I just feel so happy and proud to be part of it.

"It's been hard watching Mandy go through so much pain, but luckily there are a lot of girls in our family and everyone is giving her great support."

Jean Walsh from Cancer Research NI said it was a very emotional day. "The general atmosphere is amazing. When you look out and see 3,500 women in pink and everybody with the one aim and that is to beat cancer.

"If we add today's numbers to yesterday's we will have about 7,000 participants."

My eighth year

Liz Gardiner (55)

Bangor

In 2008 I was told I had three to four months left to live. I started chemo and my sisters suggested we do Race For Life. This is my eighth year now. I was first diagnosed in 1999 so it’s been a long journey but it’s been more meaningful to me since 2008. It’s because of research that I am still alive basically. Every year it feels absolutely fantastic, I’m on my third bucket list.

Our big day out

Kelly McConnell (35)

Ballymena

When we found out my husband Peter was sick we started doing Race For Life and we just want to keep it up now in memory of him. It's our big day out. The children love it and they can say what they want to say and don't have to worry about upsetting each other. We all come together and it's a great day to remember him. Race For Life feels great as everybody is here for the same thing.

I lost my friend

Breffny Steele (37)

Bangor

My friend Helen was 37 when she was diagnosed with cancer, she was actually a palliative care nurse so it was really sad. She fought it tooth and nail. It's the first person I had that was so close that was affected by cancer and lost her life. She was only 40 when she passed away. Race For Life gives you the feeling that you can do something and that everybody is together.

Celebrating life

Sheila Murdock (50)

Castlewellan

When I was 13 I was diagnosed with bone cancer and when I was 18 I had secondary cancer in my lung. We are here in a big group trying to support each other because at some stage families get affected by cancer. We are out too because my mother-in-law died last year. I've been all clear now in remission for 30 years. We call our group Celebrate Your Life because you have to celebrate what you have.

My brother died

Tamara McErlain (19)

Armoy

My brother Callan was 16 when he passed away in 2013. It was only seven weeks from when he was diagnosed to when he died. They only found it by accident, he had a motorbike accident and he was at the doctors and they found it because he had surgery on his back. Callan had a rare bone and blood cancer, there is no cure for it so hopefully cancer research can do something for that.

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