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The Terry Fox Run for Cancer Research

Updated on October 29, 2012

Every September 16, Canadian schools and communities across the country participate in the Terry Fox Run to raise money for cancer research. In 2010 and 2011 combined, the Terry Fox foundation distributed over $50,000,000 to agencies engaged in cancer research, including The Canadian Cancer Society, The Terry Fox Research Institute, international cancer research organizations, and Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Who is Terry Fox, and how was he able to motivate all this collaboration to ease suffering from cancer?

Have you ever run in a Marathon?

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The Original Marathon Race in Ancient Greece

According to a story that was first recorded in Plutarch's On the Glory of Athens in the 1st century AD, in 490 BC, the slave messenger ran from Marathon to the ancient Greek city state of Athens, carrying news that the small Athenian army had defeated the much larger Persian army. After completing the run, a distance of just over 25 miles, the messenger is said to have collapsed from exhaustion while the triumphant city state celebrated the victory. To commemorate this man's run, when the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896, the Marathon race of around 40,000 metres, or 26 miles, was established as an official Olympic event.

Today Marathon races are held around the world, and people train for months to develop the strength and cardiovascular stamina to complete the gruelling run, which racers complete in 3 to twelve hours. Workout schedules, nutrition, and rest days are worked into training regimes, and most racers rest the day after.

Have you ever pictured yourself running in a Marathon?

Now picture yourself not only running one, but repeating it day after day, every day for 143 days.

Now picture yourself doing this on one leg.

Thousands of visitors come to the Terry Fox Memorial in Victoria , BC every year, the provincial capital.  Terry Fox started his Marathon of Hope on Canada's east coast, and was running home.
Thousands of visitors come to the Terry Fox Memorial in Victoria , BC every year, the provincial capital. Terry Fox started his Marathon of Hope on Canada's east coast, and was running home. | Source

The original Marathon was the race of a messenger carrying news of victory against the Persians to the citizens of Athens.

show route and directions
A markerMarathon, Greece 38°9′N 23°57′E -
Ethniki Odos 83 389, Marathon 190 07, Greece
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B markerAthens, Greece -
Athens, Greece
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Terry Fox Honours

  • in September, 1980 he was invested in the Order of Canada, the youngest person to be so recognized
  • he received the Lou Marsh Award in 1980 as Canada's top athlete
  • he was named Canada's Newsmaker of the Year in 1980
  • several Canadian roads, schools, buildings, a mountain and a provincial park have been named after Terry Fox
  • his mother, Betty Fox, was chosen as one of the eight people to carry the flag of Canada into the Olympic Stadium at the opening of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games

Terry Fox Marathon of Hope: from Sea to Sea

show route and directions
A markerSt. John's, Newfoundland -
St John's, NL, Canada
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B markerThunder Bay, Ontario -
Thunder Bay, ON, Canada
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C markerPort Coquitlam, BC -
Port Coquitlam, BC, Canada
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Fox's Marathon of Hope from St. John's to Thunder Bay

This will give you the idea of Terry Fox's achievement, for he ran the equivalent of a marathon every day for 143 days from St John's, Newfoundland, to Thunder Bay, Ontario with one sound leg and an artificial one. An athlete, long distance runner, and basketball during high school and his year at university, Terry Fox had had his right leg amputated above the knee in 1977 when he was diagnosed with bone cancer. He was 19 years old.

Determined to use his experience and suffering to give hope to others who were battling cancer, Fox initiated his Marathon of Hope. His plan was to run across Canada from sea to sea, to raise the equivalent of one dollar from each of Canada's 24 million citizens. His Marathon of Hope started at the Atlantic coast in Canada's eastern-most province, Newfoundland, on April 12, 1980. Alongside as Terry ran, his friend Doug Alward drove the van, where Terry could eat meals and rest.

As Terry's race continued, more and more Canadians came out to greet him, cheer and donate money to his cause. At each city, Terry spoke to larger crowds, urging their generous support. As the summer progressed, Terry became more and more exhausted, but he refused to give up. Finally, on September 1, just outside Thunder Bay on the North shore of Lake Superior, Terry had to stop running because he was having pains in his chest and trouble breathing. He was driven to the hospital, where doctors confirmed that the cancer had spread to his lungs. Terry had run his last mile. He had run 5,373 kilometres (3,339 mi) and had raised 1.7 million dollars. Donations continued after he could no longer run, and by February 1,1981, Fox's Marathon of Hope had raised 24.17 million dollars, realizing his dream of raising one dollar for every Canadian.

Terry returned home to Port Coquitlam, British Columbia for further treatments, but the cancer continued to spread. He died on June 28, 1981, in a coma in Royal Columbia Hopsital in New Westminster, with his family around his bed.

Terry Fox Quotes

“It took cancer to realize that being self-centered is not the way to live. The answer is to try and help others.”

“Even if I don’t finish, we need others to continue. It’s got to keep going without me.”

The First Terry Fox Run

With his death, Terry Fox's achievement was just beginning. His example of compassion and courage inspired the nation to donate to the Terry Fox Foundation that continues his vision to raise funds for research to find a cure for cancer. To this day, over $600 million dollars has been raised worldwide in Terry Fox's name to end cancer.

One of Terry Fox's firm supporters was Isadore Sharp, founder of the Four Seasons Hotels, who had also lost a son to cancer. After Fox's death, Sharp initiated the idea of holding an annual one-day run to raise funds for the Terry Fox Foundation for cancer research. The first Terry Fox Run was held on September 13, 1981. Since then, this run is held annually in communities and schools across Canada, and is the single largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research.

Terry Fox lost his fight with cancer, but his vision has touched the lives of millions of Canadians. This young man from Port Coquitlam, British Columbia died just before his 23rd birthday, but his Marathon of Hope continues.


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    • techtune profile image

      Rashed 5 years ago

      Yah chef its really wonderful.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 5 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      What a wonderful story. This young man gave all for the cause and helped raise awareness - what a legacy to leave. His family must be very proud and pleased. Thank you for sharing this.

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      As goodlady says, a very inspiring story. I had not heard of Terry Fox, Janis - thanks for sharing this one.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This year here in Orillia we had a Terry Fox Week with different fundraisers and events. Terry Fox is truly a national hero.

    • Janis Goad profile image

      Janis Goad 5 years ago

      Goodlady, it is an inspiring story. There are statues ad reminders of Terry Fox in many communities in Canada, and every time I see one I am moved. Thank you for your support and sharing.

      Judi Bee, running any distance race is not easy, and it takes its toll on the joints. People who enjoy running raise lots of funds for cancer research in various events. Thank you for commenting.

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 5 years ago from UK

      A very inspirational story. I've run 5Ks, 10Ks and a half-marathon (ran for a cancer charity each time) but stopped when I got Achilles tendonitis. Reading this, I realise I've really got no excuse.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      What an incredible person, what an incredible story. I hadn't heard of Terry Fox. Or the Foundation. It's quite amazing. Thanks. Voting and sharing.