Lilly Bryant – Grand Forks Recreation
Sept. 1, 1980, was a dull day in Northern Ontario when Terry Fox ran his last miles.
He had started out strong that morning and felt confident. The road was lined with people shouting, “Don’t give up, you can make it!” – words that spurred him and lifted his spirits. But after 29 kilometres he started coughing and felt a pain in his chest.
Fox knew how to cope with pain. He’d run through it as he always had before; he’d simply keep going until the pain went away.
For 5,373 kilometres, from St John’s, Nfld., Canada’s eastern most city on the shore of the Atlantic, he’d run through six provinces and was now two-thirds of the way home. He’d run close to a marathon a day, for 143 days. No mean achievement for an able-bodied runner, an extraordinary feat for an amputee.
Terry’s left leg was strong and muscular. His right was a mere stump fitted with an artificial limb made of fibreglass and steel. He’d lost the leg to cancer when he was 18.
He was 22 now; curly haired, good-looking, sunburned. He was strong, wilful and stubborn. His run, the Marathon of Hope, as he called it, a quixotic adventure across Canada that defied logic and common sense, was his way of repaying a debt.
Fox believed that he had won his fight against cancer, and he wanted to raise money, $1 million, to fight the disease. There was a second, possibly more important purpose to his marathon; a man is not less because he has lost a leg, indeed, he may be more. Certainly, he showed there were no limits to what an amputee could do.
He changed people’s attitudes towards people with disabilities and he showed that, while cancer had claimed his leg, his spirit was unbreakable. His Marathon of Hope had started as an improbable dream – two friends, one to drive the van, one to run, a ribbon of highway, and the sturdy belief that they could perform a miracle.
He ran through ice storms and summer heat, against bitter winds of such velocity he couldn’t move, through fishing villages and Canada’s biggest cities. Though he shunned the notion himself, people were calling him a hero. He still saw himself as simple little Terry Fox, from Port Coquitlam, B.C., average in everything but determination.
But here, 18 miles from Thunder Bay, at the head of Lake Superior, the coughing had stopped, but the dull, blunt pain had not. Neither running nor resting could make it go away. He saw the people lined up the hill ahead of him. The Ontario Provincial Police cruiser was behind him, red lights flashing in the drizzle, and cheers still surrounded him: “You can make it all the way!”
Each year, GFREC strives help keep Terry’s Dream alive.
This year’s Terry Fox Run will be held Sunday, Sept. 15, starting and finishing at the Grand Forks Aquatic Centre. Registration starts at 9:30 a.m. with the eight-kilometre run/walk/bike starting at 10 a.m. sharp.
I encourage families to come out and spend just a few hours, biking, running and walking in support of Terry’s dream. Pledge forms are available at the Grand Forks Recreation office or you can also go online to donate or download the forms. You also can make a donation to the cause the day of the event.
We look forward to your continued support.
For more information, please give GFREC a call at 250-442-2202 or come by and pick up a September Recreation brochure for all our upcoming fall programming details.