Terry Fox won no races nor set any Canadian running records. There wasn’t a frame of reference in 1980 for an above-the-knee amputee running almost a marathon daily on an artificial leg for 143 consecutive days.
An exhibit unveiled Tuesday at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame just days away from his namesake run would have meant a lot to Terry Fox, says younger brother Darrell.
Terry Fox saw his Marathon of Hope as much of an athletic endeavour as it was a campaign to raise money and awareness about cancer.
“Terry did not crave recognition for himself. In fact he ran away from it,” Darrell said. “He did appreciate being recognized as an athlete.
“He thought what he did, what he accomplished was an athletic feat, but there were no benchmarks, no standards. He wasn’t running against anyone. He was running in the greatest race of all.”
The 36th edition of the Terry Fox Run will be held in cities and towns across Canada on Sunday. About $700 million has been raised in his name for cancer treatment and research.
Fox lost his right leg to bone cancer at the age of 18 in 1977.
On April 12, 1980, he dipped his prosthetic leg into ocean waters off of St. John’s, N.L., to begin his cross-Canada run home to Vancouver. He was accompanied by 17-year-old Darrell and high-school buddy Doug Alward.
There were no cell phones nor social media heralding his journey. It was word of mouth and television and newspapers that helped Fox’s story capture the heart and imagination of a country.
“We were three young guys in a stinky Ford van traversing the country one mile at a time,” Darrell recalled.
“I was a sponge to what Terry was accomplishing. I was witnessing it, I was seeing the reaction of every day Canadians on the side of the road. That’s what I experience every day now from that next generation who are learning the story. They’re not only learning the story of Terry Fox. They’re embracing it.”
The return of cancer to his lungs halted Fox in Thunder Bay, Ont., after 5,342 kilometres. Fox died June 28, 1981 at age 22.
He was quickly inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame two months after his death. Fox ranked second to Tommy Douglas in a 2004 “greatest Canadian” poll and program conducted by CBC.
“Survival rates for all forms of cancer have increased dramatically,” Darrell said. “Terry, and the form of cancer he had in 1980, he was told he had a 20- to 30-per-cent chance of living.
“Today, he’d have an over 80-per-cent chance of living and he may not have lost his leg to cancer. That’s very powerful and speaks to the investment in cancer research and that it is making a difference.”
Two-time Olympic speedskating champion Catriona Le May Doan was a nine-year-old just starting to skate when she saw images of Fox on her television screen.
“As a little girl I thought ‘why doesn’t he just stop?“’ the Hall of Fame inductee told a group of schoolchildren at the Hall of Fame. “As I got a little older I became so inspired that Terry Fox never gave up.
“Every one of us, adults and kids, until our last days, we hope to one day inspire somebody. We don’t want to inspire somebody for a moment. We want to inspire somebody for a lifetime. That’s what a true champion is. That’s what Terry Fox did.”
The Hall of Fame in Calgary devoted a room to the travelling exhibit entitled “Terry Fox: Running to the Heart of Canada” and organized by the Canadian Museum of History.
Marathon of Hope artifacts have also been on display this year in Saskatoon, Belleville, Ont., Winnipeg, Kitchener, Ont., and Nanaimo, B.C.
Children ran their fingers over a large bust of Fox’s head in Calgary. Artifacts also include an Edmonton Oilers jersey given to Fox by Wayne Gretzky.
The exhibit will remain in Calgary until Dec. 31.Report Typo/Error