An Oldham mum, who became the star of a viral photo showing her finishing her local parkrun, will be the special guest at Manchester Race for Life this weekend (Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 July) set to attract over 7,600 women and raise £420,000 for Cancer Research UK.

The happy, make-up free, sweaty image of Dawn Nisbet, 41, finishing her 5k in October last year attracted over 10,000 likes and shares on social media and encouraged a host of others to get into running whatever their fitness level, shape or size.

Dawn’s running journey began a year ago at Manchester Race for Life where she completed her first organised 5k. The catalyst was to raise funds for Cancer Research UK after her step-mum Hilary Pickles, 63, from Devon, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in March last year.

Mum-of-two Dawn, an NHS Manager, said: “When my step-mum got her cancer diagnosis it was a complete shock as she’s very, very fit and I’d never known her to be poorly.

“She’s had chemotherapy and is still being treated and is living her life around it now.

“The message she wants me to give out to people when I speak to the crowd at Race for Life is not to wait if you have possible symptoms which might turn out to be cancer. In my step-mum’s case it was back ache and bloating and she wishes she’d gone to the doctor earlier.
“Her diagnosis was the catalyst for everything. I signed up for Race for Life Pretty Muddy and completed that in July and I just loved it!

“After that I decided if I didn’t have anything to aim for I’d give up running so I started doing a 5k Parkrun each weekend. Then in January a photo of me finishing the run went viral. It was quite surreal at the time but I was flattered because I want to show others that running can be an activity for everyone.

“I still don’t run all the way around a 5k – I’ll walk in places. I think it is important to just start slowly and enjoy it because if you don’t enjoy it you’re not going to keep doing it.”

Since her viral fame Dawn has gone on to complete the Great Manchester Run which is 10k and this year she is running both Race for Life Pretty Muddy – a mud-splattered obstacle course which sees participants negotiate space hoppers, mud pits and climb frames – on Saturday 8 July and Race for Life 5k on the Sunday where she will speak on stage and start the race.

Dawn, who is married to Tom and has two daughters Samantha, 16, and Nina, nine, has dropped two dress sizes since taking up running.

She said: “This year’s Race for Life will be a milestone for me as it’s a year since I started running. I definitely feel so much fitter now and Race for Life was the springboard.

“I’d encourage others to give it a go. It’s a really friendly, welcoming atmosphere. People chat on the way round and have a laugh for a really good cause. If I can do it so can you!”

Kirsti Thompson, Cancer Research UK’s Manchester Race for Life Event Manager, said: “We’re thrilled to have Dawn marking her milestone one year of running at Heaton Park and are proud that Race for Life set her on her way to a new healthier lifestyle.

“Dawn’s story really sums up what Race for Life is about. It isn’t about being the fittest, fastest or first to the finish. It’s about women coming together in the fight against cancer, doing something enjoyable and being active.

“Money raised through Race for Life is helping to drive life-saving research – including research right here in Manchester – into over 200 different types of cancer – so every person, step and penny raised counts.

“Our aim is that one day everyone will survive cancer and the more women who Race for Life, the sooner that day will come.”


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