HEATON Park’s flagship Race for Life – which sees cancer survivors and their loved ones raise vital funds for Cancer Research UK – is celebrating its 21st birthday this year.

More than 164,000 women, girls and boys have laced up their trainers and run, walked or jogged the course since 1997 when the annual fundraising event began.

And participants have raised £8million for Cancer Research UK.

To mark the milestone, cancer survivors, families affected by cancer, event organisers and charity volunteers donned the event’s signature pink T-shirts to spell out the year the Manchester Race for Life event was founded and the year it turns 21.

Carolyn Hall, aged 45, from Whitefield, is a breast cancer survivor who spoke on stage and was VIP guest in 2014.

The mum-of-two was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 when her youngest daughter was just four-years-old.

Mrs Hall had just celebrated her 40th birthday when she found a lump on her right breast.

After seeing her GP, she was referred for tests to North Manchester Hospital, where her and husband Stuart received the news that she had breast cancer.

Just days later Mrs Hall, who is mum to Charlie and Lily, underwent a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

She also received chemotherapy treatment at The Christie.

Mrs Hall, who lost her mum to cancer, made a good recovery and now needs three check-ups per year.

She said: “It was a terrible shock when I was diagnosed with cancer - it was like being in a bad dream and I never thought it would happen to me.”

Carolyn took part in Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life in 2012 - midway through her chemotherapy treatment.

She added: “I am so thrilled to be celebrating this amazing milestone for Race for Life Heaton Park. The amount of money raised at this one venue by amazing women coming together is phenomena.”

Manchester’s Race for Life began as a single 5K race in 1997 and was originally held at Phillip’s Park, but over the years has grown and now features two 5K events and a 10K.

In 2015 organisers added an extra day to the event and now also host a Pretty Muddy 5k muddy obstacle course where participants scramble over climbing frames, splash through a mud pit and finish the event by going down an inflatable slide.

Following the fire at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute last month, the charity is now encouraging as many mums, daughters, sisters and friends to sign up to a 5k, 10k or Pretty Muddy event in 2017 and help make a difference in the fight against cancer and to also help the institute back on its feet.

Heaton Park Race for Life Event Manager Kirsti Thompson, from Whitefield, said: “We’d like to thank everyone in Greater Manchester who has taken part in our Race for Life Heaton Park event or sponsored a friend or colleague over the years.

“Last year, alone over 12,000 women took part in Manchester’s Race for Life weekend and raised over £630,000.

“This year, Race for Life takes place at Heaton Park on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th July. Participants can choose between 5k, 10k and Pretty Muddy options.”

To enter Race for Life, visit raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770.