Sunderland Race For Life runners pay emotional tributes to friends and family who’ve lost their lives to cancer

‘It always brings a tear to my eye’ – the emotive words of one Race for Life runner, who was taking part in her thirteenth event in memory of her mother and cousin following their battles with cancer.

By Neil Fatkin
Sunday, 29th May 2022, 3:08 pm

Rhonda Richardson, 46, was one of 1,500 participants raising a combined total of £154,000 for Cancer Research UK.

Despite the inclement weather, there was an emotional yet vibrant atmosphere at Herrington Country Park as the ‘Pink Army’ – named after the charity’s chosen colour - ran the 10, 5, and 3 kilometre courses on Sunday, May 29.

Rhonda, from Peterlee, was running in memory of her mother Liz and cousin Colin Giles who’d both faced battles with bowel cancer.

She said: “I always get emotional when I see the signs on people’s backs about friends and family they are running for. It always brings me to tears but it makes you realise you are not alone.

"Colin passed away last year and we couldn’t go to his funeral because of Covid restrictions. My mam actually survived her cancer but has now passed away. Every time I run I think of her.”

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The race stirred similar emotions for Marie Mulgan, 40, from Sunderland who was running the 10k event.

The McEvoy family, David, James, Charlie and Suzanne, at the start of the 3km and 5km Sunderland Race For Life. The race was a "very personal" event for the family who've faced their own challenges with cancer.

She said: “You do get emotional seeing the t-shirts and talking to people about who they are running for – it brings a lump to your throat. I always run Race for Life but it’s now very personal for me as my mam is currently fighting skin cancer and last year she had gall bladder cancer.”

Raising money to make a difference

It was a real family affair for Suzanne and David McEvoy and children Charlie and James who were running the 5k race.

Suzanne said: “I’m now in remission but I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The boys’ grandmother, Joan Gray, also died from lymphoma in 2006 and so we always take part in the race – even when I was receiving treatment for breast cancer.”

Like many families, the McEvoys had personal messages as to the reasons they were running.

James, 27, added: “It’s very personal for me as I was diagnosed with leukemia when I was a toddler. I have vague recollections of getting treatment in Newcastle RVI Hospital and so for me, this is about giving something back for the support I got.”

This year’s participation was organised by 15-year-old Charlie whose ambition is to “even out the odds of cancer survival”.

He said: “I’ve been doing this run since I was seven and I’d like to think one day getting treatment for cancer will be as simple as being able to walk into a chemist and get a pill. My brother Jaques couldn’t be with us today as he lives in Amsterdam, but he is doing it virtually.

"Between us we are hoping to raise around £1,000.”

Skinnypig founder Lisa McGlyn, 45, at the start of the 3km and 5km race. Lisa was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago.

Before the race started, runners were helped in their warm-up with a session from Lisa McGlynn, who is a fitness coach with Skinnypigs and was also taking part in the Pretty Muddy event.

Lisa, 45, is herself a cancer survivor.

She said: “When I was 35 I noticed a lump in my breast when I was feeding my baby and it turned out to be stage 3 cancer which had spread to my lymph nodes. I had a mastectomy as well as the lymph glands removed from under my arm pit.

"I also had chemotherapy which resulted in me losing my hair and steroid treatment which caused me to gain weight. This is a very personal cause for me. I’ve been clear for eight-and-a-half years now but you do always worry that it could come back.”

Remembering loved ones

Ten-year-old Jessica Hunter (centre), parents Joanne and Graeme Hunter, from Red House, Sunderland, alongside family and friends taking part in Race for Life Sunderland. Jessica, who started the race, is being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

In addition to raising vital funds, the event also provided a chance for people to remember lost loved ones and reflect on happy times.

Jill Hancock, 52, lost her father to esophageal cancer in October last year (2021) and was running the 5k race with daughter Beckie McGowan and granddaughter Mollie.

She said: “This event is very personal for me as I also had breast cancer in 2014.”

Mollie, seven, said: “My grandad was very funny. He would always tell jokes and I remember his cheese scones.”

Other people running as part of the Peterlee team were;

Katie Ogormon, who was running for dad Nick. He “died within 16 days of his cancer diagnosis”.

Sue Dixon, who was running in memory of both her grandmothers who died from cancer.

Alison Spencer ,who was participating in memory of both her uncles. She added: “All together we have raised around £1,000. Hopefully additional cancer research will one day find a cure.”

Shiney Row resident Marion Hall, 69, was also running in memory lost relatives and friends as well as in support of brother-in-law Syd McCallum, who has inoperable neck cancer.

She said: “Over the last 30 years I’ve lost at least one friend or family member each year to cancer.”

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, is run partnership with Tesco, to raises funds for world-class research to help beat 200 types of cancer – including bowel cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, testicular cancer, brain cancer, children’s cancers and leukaemia.    

Michaela Robinson-Tate, Cancer Research UK representative, said: “We are so grateful to all the supporters who took part in Race for Life Sunderland.

“Life-saving research is being funded right now thanks to everyone who fundraises for us.

"Despite the chilly weather, the atmosphere at Race for Life Sunderland was fantastic and full of emotion as people celebrated the lives of loved ones who have survived cancer and remembered those who have died.

“Following the event, we’re asking everyone who took part to return the money they raised as soon as possible.

"The funds raised - whether it’s £10 or £100 - will help scientists find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, helping save more lives.”

Peterlee team Rhonda Richardson, Katie Ogormon, Sue Dixon, Beckie and Mollie McGowan, Alison Spencer and Jill Hancock.
Andrew and Catherine Pipe from Sunderland at the start of the 3km and 5km Race For Life.
Michelle Salisbury and daughter Mia Penny from Sunderland getting ready for their race.
Mary Mulgan (left) with friend Claire Wood after completing to 10km race.