Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope 40th Anniversary

Forty years ago, Terry Fox set out on a trek across Canada to raise money for cancer research. Terry ran an incredible 5,373 kilometres across 6 provinces over the course of 143 days. His journey inspired millions of Canadians and resulted in a lasting worldwide legacy.

Terry was forced to end his run on September 1, 1980 when cancer spread to his lungs. A year later Terry tragically passed away.

To mark the 40th anniversary of Terry's Marathon of Hope, friends and family compiled “Forever Terry: A Legacy in Letters” which recounts the inspiration, dedication, and perseverance that Terry Fox embodied. The novel features 40 letters from 40 prominent Canadians as they share the way Terry's story impacted them.

The following is an excerpt from the novel, a letter shared by Canadian Steve Nash, former NBA All-Star:

Terry’s story speaks for itself, in a lot of ways — the invincibility, the humanity, the hope. As a six-year-old kid in British Columbia, his attempt to run across Canada took me in completely. On a little TV in my Oak Bay home that we had to turn on with tweezers, I watched every morning, as soon as I woke up, to see where Terry was. All of my friends did. Our hometown of Victoria was just before his finish line, and we felt like part of the pull, leading him west.

When Terry ran, somehow I didn’t see the struggle. I saw the strength. When I catch that footage now, I still do. It was impossible to watch him and not see how different his running looked compared to mine, yet his movement was so rhythmic, so solid, that it was the runner that came through.

His mindset was all over his face, in the way he held himself, in his silent steadiness. That made such an impression on me — it was maybe my first real exposure to the grit of resilience.

I remember hearing that his prosthetic leg was so painful that he bled from it, and maybe we even saw that in the news coverage. But with Terry, everything was aligned and working with purpose. He passed on that determination to so many of us that I think it’s more than a piece of our cultural fabric — generations of Canadians impacted by this “regular” guy’s dedication to change.

There were things I didn’t think about back then — I don’t think I ever wondered whether Terry thought his cancer was terminal. I believed that he was going to follow what was later described to me as a “meticulous plan” to make it, and that we’d all be there to see him dip his foot in the Pacific.

When he suspended the run, I thought it was only temporary, a pause to recover. Because what could interrupt, let alone defeat, that kind of indomitable spirit?

That spirit was contagious. When we interviewed Terry’s mother, Betty, about the day Terry called her to say his cancer had returned, had spread, I felt even some measure of surprise from her, all those years later.

Now I think Terry probably was aware that cancer would end his road, which makes it all the more inspiring: in the face of that crushing weight, he hustled for change, to help others. No sitting, no moping, just drive and hustle for change that wouldn’t come in time to save him.

That sense of constantly impelling forward has held such force in my life, as I’m sure it has for millions of others.

The autumn after Terry died, the first Terry Fox Run was held in Victoria, and all of my friends were there. Every year growing up, it was simply what we did, and our thoughts of Terry pushed us to run without stopping. My friends at home still do the run, now with their kids, all of us, maybe, acknowledging not only Terry’s heroism but the human vulnerabilities that tie us all together.

Terry was my hero as a kid. Back then, I asked him so many questions, and throughout my life, he’s given me so many answers. He inspired me to go for it. To believe in myself. To get to work. Twenty-five years after Terry had rallied the country with his improbable run into Toronto, I stood in front of thousands in Nathan Phillips Square, too.

Although I’m sure no one else present thought about it, the moment wasn’t lost on this undersized, basketball-playing kid from B.C. who had learned from the best how to be hopeful, in the face of all the world’s frailties, inspired and determined to keep pushing for change.

Photo Credit

The Terry Fox Foundation / terryfox.org

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