The iconic Pink Ladies’ Tractor Road Run in South Norfolk and North Suffolk will set off in style on July 2 as a record number of women take part. Kate Royall is one of those taking part – for the first time
In 2017 I witnessed a sight that stopped me in my tracks. There I was, cycling on the backroads of South Norfolk when out of nowhere a host of women came hurtling towards me on an array of tractors bedecked in pink. It was the vivid and widely loved Pink Ladies Tractor Road Run. I’d heard about it, but I had never seen it in person…it was beautiful, emotional and inspiring all at the same time.
The train of tractors, from vintage machines to new models with full power steering, wound its way on a 20-mile route across the district throughout the day. Tractors were decked out in pink garlands, bras, inflatable flamingos, parasols and so much more.
But what really struck me was the enthusiasm and dedication of the woman involved and I knew that they would all have their own personal stories to tell about their experiences of cancer. I’ve wanted to take part since that first glimpse of the run and this year is the year it will happen.
Many years ago, I interviewed Annie for the Eastern Daily Press. I had an hour assigned and four hours later I left inspired by the force of the woman I’d met and enthused about her event. I could have talked with her for days.
Fast forward a few years and I had moved to a village only a few miles away from Annie. I made contact and offered to volunteer, writing news stories about the run to raise its profile. Since then, Annie has tried her best to persuade me to take part in the run and I’m sure countless other women too!
Each year around 110 women from across the country take part. Many will never have driven a tractor before, but most will have been touched by breast cancer in some way. Some have taken part since the very start and every year a flurry of new participants join the convoy and take to the roads.
It’s not only the women taking part that make the event happen; it’s also down to the people who lend their tractors, the land-owners, the many marshals, the collecting crew and countless others who pull together in an extraordinary team effort.
Once I had decided to take part, the idea of sourcing a tractor seemed monumental, but this is East Anglia and thanks to a superb local farmer I now have a tractor, and although I’ve driven it a few times, I need more training ahead of the big day. Then will come the enormous task of sourcing pink decorations for myself and the tractor.
As a spectator for many years, I have witnessed the crowd-lined routes. I’ve met the ladies, their friends and families at the picnic lunch which punctuates the route. I’ve heard their inspiring and heart-breaking stories. I’ve seen people along the route dressed in head-to-toe pink, cheering, clapping and crying in support – in towns, villages, laybys and gardens. I’ve seen the houses and businesses bedecked in pink bunting, banners and flags. I’ve witnessed it all first-hand but being part of the run and driving through the waves of support will be something else entirely.
The run does so much more than raise vital funds, it creates a support network for so many, it brings light and laughter to people at times when there may be little, it raises awareness and just maybe, it makes women check their breasts for anything out of the ordinary.
It certainly did make me check mine. Because of the run I do make those regular checks. I remember one year cycling home from the run to write about it and as I sat at my computer, I checked my breasts and found a lump. It was terrifying but thankfully turned out to be a fatty cyst.
I will be taking part in the run, thinking about the strength of the hundreds of participants that have taken part over the years and my treasured Aunty Betty who died of breast cancer.
But I will be doing it with a huge smile on my face, hoping not to hold the convoy up or stall the tractor!
The 2023 Pink Ladies Tractor Road Run takes place on Sunday July 2. With the event racing towards a fundraising total of £1m, 195 women swathed in pink will take to their tractors to mark the 20th anniversary of this iconic event. To date, the event has raised £896,000 in aid of Cancer Research UK’s breast cancer appeal and this year the Pink Ladies hope to raise the £104,000 needed to reach £1m. For more information visit Pink Ladies Tractor Road Run. Follow Kate’s journey, Diary of a Country Girl (@a_countrylife) on Instagram. To donate, visit Kate’s first Pink Ladies Tractor Road Run! (cancerresearchuk.org)
Featured image of Kate Royall, by Al Coutts