Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Pop History Moment: Terry Fox Ended His Marathon of Hope

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Few people in history have been as universally loved and admired as Terry Fox; even now, more than a quarter century after his death, I defy you to find anyone who met him who has anything bad to say about him. A 1983 HBO movie about Fox, which depicted him as ill-tempered, was savaged by all those close to him, and even as unrepentant a cynic as yours truly still cannot help but be affected by his vigourous dignity.

Diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 1977 (which may have been triggered by an earlier car crash) Fox later had his right leg amputated above the knee. Rather than the end of his life, he seemed to treat it as just the beginning...

In April 1981 Terry Fox dipped his foot into the Atlantic Ocean near St. John's, Newfoundland. He then proceeded to run 42 km - or 26 miles, the length of a marathon - every day, to raise funds for cancer research. Over the next 143 days he ran 5,373 kilometres.

Even though it was his intention to run across the country, as he passed through northern Ontario his energy began to flag; x-rays revealed sizable tumours in each of his lungs, and on this day in 1980 he was forced to quit. He had just made it to Thunder Bay, about halfway home.

When he died the following June, just shy of his 23rd birthday, it was like everyone in Canada died a little too. For his sake, though, the country and the Marathon of Hope have persisted. To date more than $400 million has been raised in his name on the annual Terry Fox Run, and unlike with his initial effort, there's no end in sight to this one.
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1 comment:

TheQuestionMan said...

Of the many events that have marked my life this one remains one of the most poignant.

He and his cause touched a cord in me that never died.