On Sept. 1, 1980, Terry Fox ran his last miles. It was a cold, dreary day in Ontario. There were people lining the road as he ran, shouting words of encouragement and hope. He had run 143 days and 5,373 kilometres from St. John’s, Newfoundland. He was 22.
At 18, Terry had lost his right leg to cancer. Fitted with a prosthesis, Terry dreamt of raising $1 million in support of cancer research. The Marathon of Hope was born. It started as a dreamÖone van, two people — one running, one driving — and long stretches of Canadian highways. Terry Fox began his run on April 12, 1980.
Running through sleet, snow, rain and unbearable heat, Terry began before dawn and finished only after he had run close to 26 miles each day.
“I loved it,” Terry said. “I enjoyed myself so much and that was what other people couldn’t realize. They thought I was going through a nightmare running all day long. People thought I was going through hell. Maybe I was partly, but still I was doing what I wanted and a dream was coming true and that, above everything else, made it all worthwhile to me.”
Canadians were inspired by his example. Donations began to pour in. People cheered him on as he ran through their towns, and he began to see his dream of raising one million dollars to help fight cancer, become a reality.
Sadly, Terry’s fight with cancer was not over. While he had been focusing on his Marathon of Hope, his cancer had returned. He ran his last 26 miles that chilly day in northern Ontario.
“That’s the thing about cancer. I’m not the only one. It happens all the time, to other people. I’m not special. This just intensifies what I did. It gives it more meaning. It’ll inspire more people.”
When Terry Fox passed away on June 28, 1981, our nation mourned. Flags flew at half-mast and people wept for this courageous young man. However, his dream was not forgotten, and the first Terry Fox Run was held in September 1981. More than 300,000 people ran in his memory and $3.5 million was raised in support of cancer research. It became an annual event. To date, approximately $700 million has been raised for Terry’s Marathon of Hope.
Cancer is a disease that affects someone we know. This disease has the ability to take those we love the most away. I believe that there will be a cure. On Sept. 17 Sundre will host its 34th annual Terry Fox Run. Organized every year by my father Terry Leslie since 1983, he has handed over the reins to me this year. He has always said that Terry Fox is his hero. He is my hero as well. What a dream he had.
Please join me and my family this Sunday, Sept. 17 at 10 a.m. at the base of Snake Hill. Walk, run or bike in support of cancer research.
“I believe in miracles. I have to.” ó Terry Fox
Sundre Terry Fox Run organizer