FOR years they have been standing on the sidelines or at the finish line to offer support as the women in their lives do their bit to help the fight against cancer.

With a shout of encouragement or a hug at the end, many men have understood their role in helping their girlfriend, wife, mum, sister or nan take part in the annual Race for Life events round the county.

Now after more than a quarter of a century, the annual women-only fundraisers are open to men.

In a bid to boost funds, organiser Cancer Research UK is inviting men, as well as women and children to take part in the five kilometre or ten kilometre run, or the Pretty Muddy event.

The announcement comes after the charity revealed that the Southampton event, which attracts thousands of entrants every year, will be held on June 22 and 23.

The Winchester Race for Life will take place on May 26.

Georgina Horne, event manager for Southampton Race for Life, said: “

We are constantly evolving, listening to our supporters and feel the time is right to open up Race for Life so that men can take part.

“Men have always played a really important role in the event, whether it be helping to stage Race for Life, marshalling the course, handing out medals or just turning out to cheer participants on.

“To make a significant difference in the fight against cancer we need to harness as much energy and commitment as possible and that’s why we are inviting everyone to take part together.”

She added: “This January, we’re urging mums, dads, nans, grandpas, brothers, sisters, friends and workmates to show their support by joining the Race for Life.

“It’s a perfect example of everyday people doing an extraordinary thing – uniting in a common cause to beat cancer.”

Last year saw thousands of women completed the races in their best pink attire to raise money for the charity.

The races taking place in the area are:

A 5km run on May 26 in North Walls Recreation Ground in Winchester from 11am.

A pretty muddy 5km will take place on June 22 on Southampton Common, from 10.30am.

A 10km run will take place on June 23 on the Common from 11am.

A 5km run will take place on June 23 on the Common from 11am.

There is also 30% off entry fees for those who apply during January using the code RFL3O at