Had he lived, Terry Fox would now be 65 years old, a pensioner. His landmark birthday fell about six weeks ago, on July 28.
But it’s impossible to see him as a senior citizen.
Remarkably, Terry is always and forever young, at least in our collective conscience, thanks to the photos and videos and personal memories from the 143 days of his spectacular Marathon of Hope.
From April 12, 1980, when he dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean near St. John’s, Nfld., he ran a marathon a day. On one good leg.
In true understated Canadian fashion, his trek started off rather low-key.
No one really knew what to expect of this kid with the curly mop of hair and hitch-hop running style thanks to his artificial leg.
Running across Canada? Seriously? Boy, did he show us.
Typically, the first real heartfelt community acknowledgement of his feat came in Newfoundland, a province renowned for welcoming one and all.
In Port aux Basques, he received a hero’s welcome – and about $10,000 in donations.
And on he went. Sunburned, blistered, freckled, his tousled locks bleached by the sun, a simple white T-shirt promoting the Marathon of Hope, loose shorts that might be embarrassingly skimpy by today’s standards and no hat. It was 1980, after all.
He wore through his trademark blue Adidas as he made his way across the Maritimes and Quebec.
All was not sunshine and rainbows, though. Terry could be blunt, known for speaking his mind, whether it was to sponsors trying to cash in on his fame or even his good friend Doug Alward, who accompanied him, driving the donated camper van that was their home on wheels.
But once his younger brother Darrell joined them, the Marathon of Hope began to hit its stride, first in Montreal and then on Canada Day in Ottawa.
There had been inklings that this young man was someone special, but by the time July 1 rolled around it seemed the country was ready to embrace this dynamo.
A few days later, on July 11, 1980, his fame exploded as some 10,000 people turned out to greet him at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto.
A legend, a hero, the greatest Canadian, call him what you will, the kid from Port Coquitlam, B.C., was doing something unselfishly superhuman and people loved him for it.
Whether you saw him that day in Toronto, in person or in the media, or along the highways and byways north of the city as he made his way toward Parry Sound, Sudbury, north of Superior and ultimately Thunder Bay, you could not help but be awestruck by what this one-legged phenom was doing.
No one doubted he would see it through – and no one expected the tragic, unfortunate end that lurked on the horizon.
On Sept. 1, after 5,373 kilometres, Terry’s Marathon of Hope was over. His cancer had returned.
Except, unbeknownst to him, his run really was just beginning.
Terry lost his battle with cancer on June 28, 1981, exactly one month shy of his 23rd birthday, but he lives on in the efforts of thousands of volunteers across hundreds of communities in Canada and around the world.
The annual Terry Fox Run is carrying on the job he started but was unable to finish. With luck and donations and research, maybe, just maybe, Canadians can help make Terry’s dream of defeating cancer come true.
Walk, run or donate. Do it for Terry.
- The Terry Fox Run is this Sunday, Sept. 17. NOTL’s run starts from Simcoe Park and registration begins at 9 a.m.