As runners and walkers limber up for the annual Terry Fox run on September 14, one Nelson man remembers when he saw Fox running during his Marathon of Hope in 1980. Fox ran through Tom Dool’s home town in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
“When I was a kid I was really impressed that this young man with one leg running across Canada. It was tremendous.” Dool was nine and just starting to pick up cross country running when Fox began his marathon. “It was a big deal. This guy was doing this thing that was absolutely absurd. I mean he was running across the country, running a marathon a day with one leg. And then he got sick again.”
“Every night watching the television it was like, where is Terry now? Is he okay? What’s the weather like for him? The hype was so big by the time Terry reached the Sault.”
Dool said there was a huge crowd for Fox even though it was a cold, miserable day.
“He inspired a whole generation of kids and he broke the hearts of a whole generation of parents.”
Dool travelled across Canada this summer and spent a day at the Terry Fox monument with his wife and three kids: eight, five and 10 months.
The nine-foot-high bronze statue of Fox stands on top of a 45- ton granite base, overlooking Lake Superior. The memorial marks the location where Fox had to stop running because cancer had spread to his lungs.
“It’s a beautiful memorial to him,” said Dool. “There were tons of people there, a crowd really, and it’s a large place. Some people were picnicking.”
Dool’s eight-year-old daughter was very curious but didn’t know who Fox was and Dool said he found it difficult to explain.
“I had a hard time telling my kids the story as I kept getting choked up. Now as a parent it was just heart breaking watching this young man run in the cold. He was sick and dying and he didn’t give up. I remember my mom crying when Terry died and I thought she must have known him well.”
Dool is still a runner today and has done the Terry Fox Run many times.
Unlike other major fundraising events, the Terry Fox Run has no corporate sponsorship. During his cross-Canada run, he turned down every endorsement he was offered in case it would detract from his goal of creating public awareness.
The run has been happening in Nelson since its inception in 1981. On Sunday, participants will meet at Lakeside Park and have the option to walk, wheel, ride or run the 1 km, 2 km, 5 km or 10 km routes. There is no registration fee.
Kristi Crowe, one of the run organizers in Nelson, has noticed a gradual increase in the number of participants over the last three years, including a resurgence of families coming out with strollers and such, which she attributes possibly in part to social media. The 2013 event raised almost $10,000 and had approximately 300 people attend.
Terry Fox was an avid athlete who grew up in Port Coquitlam. In 1977, when he was 18, he was diagnosed with bone cancer and had his right leg amputated. While recovering in hospital he was so touched by other cancer patients’ suffering that he decided to start a fundraiser for cancer research.
After training for 18 months, he departed from the east coast of Canada, running 42 kilometres a day. He was forced to stop his run after 143 days, on September 1 near Thunder Bay, Ont. as the cancerspread to his lungs. He passed away June 28, 1981 at 22.
His wish was to have the fundraising continue without him and the Terry Fox Foundation was created. Thirty three years later over $650 million has been raised worldwide for cancer research in his name through the annual Terry Fox Run, held across Canada and around the world.
The race is facilitated by local volunteers and is organized without sponsorship. Over 9,000 Terry Fox Runs are held each year, all volunteer-led and organized with no entry fee, no minimum pledge and no official timing to keep it non-competitive.
To volunteer or for more information on the Nelson run, contact Mike Hurley at email@example.com.