Norwich Race for Life hailed as a huge success

Rebekah Marsh and her daughters Martha, 13, Betsy, nine and Hattie, seven, all took part in the Race

Rebekah Marsh and her daughters Martha, 13, Betsy, nine and Hattie, seven, all took part in the Race for Life - Credit: Archant

They had their hearts on their sleeves and their teeth gritted.

Rachael Donovan and daughter Lyla at the Race for Life

Rachael Donovan and daughter Lyla at the Race for Life - Credit: Archant

Over the weekend almost 8,000 women and girls - mostly wearing pink - took part in Race for Life events at the Norfolk Showground, near Norwich, to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

This year marked the 20th year of Norwich hosted the event, and organiser Leander Platten said he was delighted with the support shown.

Mr Platten said: 'It's really a testament to Norwich that they have managed to keep the numbers so high for 20 years. That has helped to make some of the advances that have been made in cancer research for the last 20 years happen, so everybody here should be really proud of themselves.'

The weekend started with the 5km 'Pretty Muddy' event (see pages 6 and 7 for pictures) which saw about 4,200 take part. Among them was Roxanne Ames, 23, from Norwich, who was running with 18 friends and family members in support her mother, Rhiannon, who is fighting a type of bone-marrow cancer called multiple myeloma.

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'At first we didn't think it was going to be that muddy, so we underestimated it, but we were absolutely filthy by the end,' she said.

On Sunday, around 3,500 people took part in 5km and 10km events (see pages 4 and 5 for pictures). Most were wearing pink t-shirts and vests, and many went an extra step by decorating their outfits with pink wigs, sunglasses, angel wings, hula-hoops and tutus.

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Mr Platten said just over £500,000 had been raised. However, he said almost a third of donations pledged to the charity were not handed in, and urged everyone to do so.

Tears in her eyes

With her eight-year-old daughter Lyla by her side, cancer survivor Rachael Donovan had tears in her eyes as she told her story at the Race for Life.

Mrs Donovan, 37, from Norwich, took to the stage to address the crowd before sounding the horn to start the race and joining in the 10km event herself.

She told of how she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2010, just six months after she had been married to husband, Martin, and how she was eventually given the all-clear after treatment.

Mrs Donovan said: 'Without treatment I would have had months to live. Thanks to research you have helped to fund through Race for Life I am still with my family, I'm still mummy to Lyla.

'Not everyone gets to have a tomorrow, and that spurs me on to raise as much money as possible for Cancer Research UK.'

She added: 'The healing process takes a long time, it's not just about the scars you can see, there are emotional ones as well. Five years on and I am lucky to have my tomorrows. Being here helps others to have a tomorrow as well. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.'

In memory of a loved dad and husband

United by love for a lost father and husband, the women of the Marsh family crossed the finish line together.

Rebekah Marsh and her daughters Martha, 13, Betsy, nine, and Hattie, seven, took part in the 5km Race for Life in memory of David Marsh, a police officer who died of lung cancer 18 months ago, aged just 46.

His widow Mrs Marsh, who lives in Barnham Broom, said: 'David was a devoted father and we miss him terribly. He didn't smoke and he had no risk factors at all. He was just one of those few who are completely unlucky.

Mrs Marsh said she was struck by the emotion of the event.

She said: 'This unites people in their grief. It's such an important event and we are making huge strides to cure cancer.'

Martha said: 'It's important that we raise money so that nobody else has to go through what we have been through.'

Among the group's support team was the girls' brother Henry, 11.

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