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Neil Johnson, race organizer of a Terry Fox Run next month in London, England, poses for a photograph near his home in Toronto, on July 29, 2020.

Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

The organizer: Neil Johnson

The pitch: Launching the Terry Fox run in Britain

Canadian businessman Neil Johnson has been living in London for years but a conversation with a friend in Toronto last September got him thinking about Terry Fox.

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“He said ‘I’m busy tomorrow running the Terry Fox Run’ and I said, ‘I’m here in London, I’m going to find out where the Terry Fox Run is and join all the Canadians that are doing it,’ ” recalled Mr. Johnson, who runs a financing company called Duke Royalty Ltd. “There was no Terry Fox run.”

The run had been popular in the U.K. during the 1980s and 1990s, but it hadn’t been held since 2007. Mr. Johnson got in contact with the Terry Fox Foundation and asked about starting an event in London this year. “I’ve been a Canadian in London half my career, here’s a chance to bring an iconic Canadian figure to London. I can’t pass this up,” he said.

He began organizing the London run months ago and would’t let the COVID-19 pandemic get in the way. The U.K. run will join virtual Terry Fox Runs around the world on Sept. 20. Participants can run, bike or walk any distance around their neighbourhoods or try the traditional run of 2.5, 5 or 10 kilometres. All net proceeds in the U.K. will be donated to Britain’s Institute of Cancer Research.

Mr. Johnson, who survived prostate cancer, has been eager to tell friends in Britain about Terry Fox. The 22-year-old athlete from Port Coquitlam, B.C., lost his leg to cancer and began running across the country in 1980 to raise money for research. Mr. Fox had to end his run after making it from St. John’s to Thunder Bay, and he died a year later. Since then, Terry Fox Runs have been held annually in September and participants have raised more than $700-million in total for cancer research.

Mr. Johnson hopes the U.K. event will raise around £20,000, or $34,600. He’ll be running with his wife and son, and plans to complete 5 km. “I was in Vancouver in 1980 when Terry was making headlines,” he added. “I’m a cancer survivor and I’m so grateful for the awareness he brought to cancer research. It’s come a long way and we as Canadians can be proud of the role that Canada and Terry Fox has played.”


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