Marathons of Hope

A young man’s determination continues to inspire millions worldwide

Photo by The Terry Fox Foundation at

2 min read

Every time I walk along one of my favorite trails, I come across signage that reads, “Terry Fox Training Route.” Walking along the path used by the Canadian icon always prompts me to ask myself whether I am prepared to go as far for my “ideals” as he did for his.

Terry was born in 1958 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, of Métis heritage. His family moved west to a Vancouver suburb where he attended elementary school. An avid athlete, Terry joined the school’s basketball team, but later was told that he was too short and encouraged to try cross-country running. He did, out of respect for the teacher: little did anyone know how important this would become. Eventually, Terry’s tenacity even earned him a spot on the school’s basketball team and on his university’s junior team.

However, at the end of his freshman year, pain in his right leg indicated more than usual athletic aches. A tumor was discovered and his leg was amputated six inches above the knee. Terry was three months short of his 19th birthday.

While in the cancer ward, he was deeply touched by the suffering that he witnessed and decided that he had to do something: “It took cancer to realize that being self-centered is not the way to live. The answer is to try and help others.”

He came up with the idea of a cross-Canada run to raise funds for cancer research. On April 12, 1980, Terry dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic and set off on his daily 42 km (26 miles) marathon. He was ready for the challenge.

And challenging it was. He was practically ignored as he ran through the Maritime provinces and Quebec. It would have been easy to give up the project, but that wasn’t Terry Fox. On June 28, as he entered Ontario, there was a sudden change: people started to come out and offer support and donations. On July 11, over 10,000 people gathered in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square to see him. His persistence had paid off: the country was behind him now.

On September 8, Terry was forced to abandon his quest. His cancer had returned. However, at his death in June of 1981, the Marathon of Hope had reached his dream goal: the equivalent of one dollar per Canadian.

The marathon continues to this day. Terry Fox Runs are organized across the globe annually. There are also bicycle rides or mountain trekking events in order to raise funds for the cause. To date, over $850 million has been raised for cancer research in Terry’s name.

Anyone can participate or volunteer at a run in their area, or organize an event to raise funds. One spark can ignite a fire—and even a small event gives a contribution.                                                        

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