THEY may have wore their hearts on their sleeves, but it was the messages pinned to their backs that told the biggest story.
Tributes to loved ones lost or fighting cancer confirmed the reason so many had for joining hundreds on a chilly July morning for the Weston Park Hospital Run In The Park.
Sheffield’s windswept Graves Park was awash with tales of heartbreak and courage and big gestures amid the athletic exploits in 3km and 10km runs in aid of the city’s cancer hospital.
Professional runners joined first timers, with a record 1,129 runners taking part across the two distances.
Organiser Helen Gentle said most had a personal reason for being there.
She said: “It is lovely reading the messages and signs. People take part for so many different reasons. Everyone knows somebody who has been a patient or a family member who is maybe being treated at Weston Park.
“It touches a lot of people. Most have been affected in some way, be it themselves or a relative. We had a lot of people take part who are patients.”
Patients included Michelle Foster, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in January and tackled the 3km course having just completed chemotherapy ahead of a course of radiotherapy.
The 42-year-old, from Lowedges, Sheffield, said: “I did it all on foot, but my dad took the wheelchair just in case. I feel great, but shattered.”
Plenty were doing the race for those who lost their fight with cancer as well as to thank the hospital for their treatment, such as Katie Pearson, aged 33, from Stairfoot, Barnsley, running with sister Joanne Wilson, 40, as animated characters Wallace & Gromit.
Katie, a director of a dance theatre company, said: “I’ve got bowel cancer so I’m running to say thank you for all the care and for my chemo buddy Chris Vernals who passed away earlier this year.
“I finished chemotherapy but I just wanted to do this because it’s another way to feel like you’re fighting it. I feel fantastic.”
The run has been going for four years and has raised about £90,000.
This year it is on target to add another £44,000 with funds going towards the Do Your Bit campaign to raise £1.3 million towards a new cancer research and treatment suite.