A SEA of pink swamped Bitts Park as thousands took part in this year’s Race For Life celebration at Carlisle.

More than 2,500 women, children and this year, for the first time, men, entered the 5km, 10km and the Pretty Muddy events.

They were all at Bitts Park to raise money in the fight against cancer, but also to remember and honour the friends, family and loved ones who had been affected by it or who had succumbed to it.

Shirt numbers were decorated with hearts or stars or both, some with heartfelt messages of remembrance, some with a simple ‘For Mam’ or ‘For Dad’ . Others remembered grandparents, brothers and sisters.

Some were for themselves, to celebrate the fact that they were a survivor, other simply said “for everyone”.

The Mitchell family from Gilsland sprayed their hair pink, there was glitter on their cheeks, they wore pink and each had a pair of fairy wings.

Dad Colin, mum Liz, Ollie aged seven and Shona eight, were running in memory of Liz’s sister Clare and Colin’s mum Betty.

Mum of two Clare died of breast cancer two years ago aged 47. Betty died of ovarian cancer in 2007 aged 59.

Liz, who took part in Pretty Muddy three years ago said: “My sister loved fairies and the colour pink, so it was appropriate!

“We really like the fact that they have allowed men to take part, so we’re doing it as a family.”

Taking part in the event was Shona’s idea. She said: “It’s a good way to raise money and to remember my auntie.”

Blind Tracey Louise from Carlisle was walking the 5km course with her guide Bethanie Taylorson.

She said: “Some of my family have had cancer and I have lost friends to it and have friends battling it.

“The battle is finding a cure.

“It also affects the people who love the person who has cancer.”

Four ladies from the Kirkandrews Women’s Institute proudly wore sashes declaring they were from the WI and “inspiring women”.

Glynis Milburn, 69, Judith Swinson, 75, Kathleen Bowron, 72, and Janet Tupper, 69, walked the 5km course. Judith lost husband Stuart to cancer last year and has just been cleared of skin cancer.

Glynis lost her sister-in-law Maureen and best friend Sandra to the disease this year.

She said: “I think everyone has been touched by it in some way. It is only because of fundraising events like this that you can have survivors.”

The women have raised almost £1,000 for Cancer Research.

A group of staff from Carlisle’s County Hotel took part in the fundraiser.

David Stothard and David Millar, both from Annan, were running the 10km, while other members of the group took on the 5km route.

Mr Stothard was running in memory of his grandad David who died last November of cancer of the spine.

He trained for four months for the event and has lost 20 kilos as a result.

He said: “It’s a great event because it gets you out and doing some exercise in the fresh air. It’s better than a bake sale.”

Mr Millar said: “I’m running to support David, but also in memory of my Papa George who died of lung cancer nine years ago.”

It was the seventh time that Melanie Henderson had taken part in the event.

Mum Margot and dad Billy died within seven weeks of each other from two different forms of cancer. Margot of skin cancer and Billy of myeloma blood cancer.

Melanie, 37, from Carleton Grange in Carlisle, said: “It was a very tough time.

“Dad was diagnosed first and I did my first for him. I’ve done the 5km every year since.”

The Carlisle event is expected to contribute £107,000 to fighting cancer.

All the money raised will go to Cancer Research UK to help fund research into the disease and save lives.

Race For Life Event manager Lauren Robertson was delighted with the day and said: “It has been fantastic. The sun came out for Carlisle again, we’ve raised an incredible amount of money and with 2,500 participants, Carlisle never lets us down.

“Having men take part this year has been great. We’ve had some very positive feedback about it.”