A SOUTHEND business woman, who’s taking part in Race for Life for the first time in memory of her dad, is calling on other women to sign up.

Vicky Grammatikopoulou, 51, has never entered a 5k race before but her enthusiasm to get fit and take part has already encouraged her sister, daughter, nieces, colleagues and friends to join her in the 5k Basildon Race for Life on June 26. She hopes her "call to arms" will encourage other women to follow her example and sign up for their nearest Race for Life event in Essex.

To help rally the troops, the former language teacher at Greensward, in Hockley, posed with "war paint" on her face and the elaborate Race for Life warrior headdress.

The headdress will be available for other women to try on and model at a special Race for Life Battle HQ event at Lakeside Shopping Centre on Saturday, April 9.

Ms Grammatikopoulou, from Hockley, lost her dad George to cancer and her sister-in-law, Petra, is recovering after treatment for breast cancer.

She said: “Dad but had never spent a day in hospital in his life. He was always out on his bike or he would be off fishing. He’d retired but was starting a new career. It was cancer of the kidney. He was diagnosed seven months before he died. He kept fighting until the last minute, and stayed strong until the end. I miss him very much, he is always in my thoughts but I don’t believe people ever really leave you."

Ms Grammatikopoulou added: “It is the first time I have done anything like this, a run or fundraising event. I have donated to charity before but not fundraised myself. I’ve been going to the gym and my trainer said I should go for it. I don’t know if I’ll run all of it, or just some of it, on the day but I will finish the course.

“Everyone is being so supportive and people are signing up to join me. We have a small team now. I am pushing myself but it will be worth it to remember dad and to honour Petra.”

Gill Burgess, Race for Life event manager, said: "Every day, around 89 people are diagnosed with cancer in the region. That’s why we are calling on women across the city to follow Vicky and join the front line against the disease.

“We’d like to thank Vicky for her support and we hope local women will come to Lakeside to visit our Battle HQ event and feel inspired to join the pink army at Race for Life.”

As well as the chance to get "battle ready" in the style of Race for Life, shoppers can capture their own picture of defiance in the specially-designed Battle HQ selfie station.

To enter Race for Life today go to raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770.

To support the team visit: https://www.justgiving.com/teams/the-vie-ladies