NEARLY 2,000 fundraisers took on the 5km Race for Life course to raise money and awareness for Cancer Research UK.

And thousands more were there to cheer on their family and friends in the annual race, which took place in the grounds of Kingston Maurward College today.

In temperatures topping 20°C, 1,800 fundraisers set off at 11am to tackle the course and Tara Chittenden, 16, from Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester, finished the race in first place with a time of 21 minutes and 46 seconds She was racing to raise money for her friend, Jack Davies, who is in the same tutor group as Tara at school and is undergoing a course of chemotherapy after he was recently diagnosed with cancer.

Tara said: “It was very hot, really hot during the race but it was a nice race and the course was good.

“It was harder than I thought but that was good in a way because it made me work harder. It was hard but not as hard as what some people are going through.”

Team Echo was out in full force for the event, with reporters Emma Walker, Catherine Bolado and Tara Cox among those taking part. 

Reporter Emma Walker completed the course in 37 minutes. She said: "It was a lot of fun in the lovely sunshine and we have raised almost £200 for Cancer Research UK. 

"Thank you to everyone who donated to our Just Giving page, this is a worthy cause and we look forward to next year."

Many of the racers were raising money for Cancer Research UK in memory of loved ones, with groups of families, friends and work colleagues, plus individual racers, combining to raise as much money as possible.

Maxine Bateman, events manager for Cancer Research UK, said: “It was an amazing day, the weather was great and there was a really good atmosphere.

“There were 1,800 people who completed the course which is more than we expected, and we are hopeful of achieving our fundraising aim of £83,229. It was a brilliant day.”

Lou Sam, from Lou Sam’s Zumba Heat class, led the pre-race zumba warm up as hundreds of the racers limbered up for the event.

Forty Two members of the Zumba class took part in the race, and Lou said: “Some of the ladies who attend the classes have suffered from cancer, and a lot of them have relatives who have suffered from it.

“Today is about us all coming together and having an amazing time as we raise money for a great cause and remember those close to our hearts who have died from cancer.”

Deborah Ryan and Janet Marlborough live next door to each other on Lodmoor Hill in Weymouth.

Deborah said: “We have been doing it every year since it started, and we have raised about £100 each time, it’s is for such a brilliant cause.

“We have both lost family members to cancer so this is a cause very close to our hearts.”

Karen Willis and 20 other friends were racing in the memory of Natalie Heap, who died on February 18, 2014 after suffering from Leukaemia.

Karen said: “Natalie was a beautiful wife, a loving mother and a great friend and we are doing this today to help keep her memory alive.”

Lydia Harwood, Beth Roxburgh, Amy Hillier, Caroline Deakin, Tanya Perham, Juliette Perham and Claire Tuck are all work colleagues from Beaminster-based Clipper Teas.

Lydia said: “We all know someone who has had cancer, and Cancer Research UK is our nominated charity for this year. We have raised £1,000 for the charity, and this is our first year we have done it so we are very pleased.”

Nina Tidby, Helen MacIntyre, Pauline Bown (cor), Meg Bown and Erin O’hara all took on the challenge together in memory of their relatives and friends who had died of cancer.

Nina, who was raising money in memory of her brother, said: “Cancer affects everyone and this is the second year we have done it because it’s such a good cause, we love the atmosphere and dressing up for it so it’s a good way to raise money.”

Mother and daughter Heather and Sharon Pugh were tackling the course for the 12th year in a row.

Heather said: “We do it every year and we have raised thousands of pounds overall. We know of a lot of people who have suffered from various forms of cancer and it’s horrible because you know you can’t help them. This is the best way to do it, to help raise money for Cancer Research UK.

Nicky Musgrove, Heather Grayson, Steph Addison, Sue Langord and Rachel Brasier are work colleagues from SCATS Country Stores in Dorchester.

Sue said: “Some of us are raising money in memory of a family member who died from cancer, and some of us are doing it for the first time.

“It’s for a great cause and we have raised about £400 between us all.”