IT was the biggest thank you for thousands of women across Southampton.

The Daily Echo has proudly picked up a prestigious award from Cancer Research UK for its coverage of Race for Life 2004.

In particular the paper was praised for its exposure of the missing millions that remained uncollected from last June's event - the largest race in the UK.

After highlighting that only 50 per cent of the people who took part nationally had paid up, the Daily Echo helped pull in a further £20,000 towards vital research into cancer.

During a special lunchtime awards ceremony at London's Great Eastern Hotel, fitness guru Rosemary Conley presented the Daily Echo's women's and lifestyle editor Kate Thompson and assistant news editor Jenny Makin with the accolade.

The paper was also highly commended for its photo coverage of the event that saw more than 10,000 women from the city make their way around the five-kilometre course on Southampton Common.

Deputy picture editor Stuart Martin was presented with a certificate to mark the achievement.

More than 60 people, described as "the cream of the crop" in their support for Race for Life in the UK, attended the event.

The race, now in its 12th year, has raised more than £100m since it was launched. Louise Holland, Cancer Research UK national events director and founder of Race for Life, said: "It gives me great pleasure to be able to recognise you all publicly and to say once again that we really couldn't do it without you."

Among the other people praised for their achievements was James Mulhern, who helped out at last year's Southampton race as an unpaid volunteer, and he was awarded for being the best individual supporter.

Plans are about to be launched for this year's event in Southampton, and details will be published in next Tuesday's Daily Echo.