Had he lived, Terry Fox would have been 50 years old this year.
Although it may be hard to picture the 22-year-old who died in June of 1981 as a middle-aged man, it is just as difficult to imagine the second weekend of September without the annual Terry Fox Run, which is held throughout Canada and around the world.
“He’s definitely, in my mind, Canada’s greatest athlete,” said George Maratos, who organized Whitehorse’s Sunday Terry Fox Run. “He ran 143 marathons in a row on that one leg!
“I can’t fathom that,” he added.
More than doubling the amount of participants from last year, from 72 to 192, the run raised $5,638.15, an increase of more than $2,000 from last year.
“It was my goal to get the numbers up, and I think we achieved that,” said Maratos. “I’ve always been inspired by Terry Fox and last year I competed in it and it was quite bleak — there wasn’t this community feel.
“And I said, ‘Next year if you need a co-ordinator, I can take it on.’ And sure enough, they took me up on it.”
Starting and ending at the S.S. Klondike next to Rotary Peace Park, the run took participants on a 4.8-kilometre route along the Millennium Trail.
Runners could do either one or two laps.
“This is my first time,” said Natasha Trovato, who ran two laps of the course, as she sat listening to the live entertainment provided for the runners.
“I kind of run this everyday, so it’s just a reason to come and run — and it’s a good cause.”
Organizers put extra effort into turning the run into a community affair, providing live entertainment and a barbeque, which generated $380.
Maratos feels that the entertainment and increased social scene at the start/finish line drew additional participants.
“We had a lot of people coming in late,” said Maratos. “Like I said, they heard the music, saw the tents, (and said) ‘What’s going on? Sure I’ll make a donation and walk the trail.’ That’s the thing, it’s not a race, you can come in and make a donation at any time.”
Through the Terry Fox Foundation, 87 per cent of the money raised will go directly to cancer research.
“That’s amazing,” said Maratos. “A lot of foundations are not even close to that number.”
After drinking hot chocolate to warm the belly and then being taken through a warm-up by representatives of the Canada Games Centre and Better Bodies, runners took to the trail shortly after noon.
For their participation, all runners received a certificate that can be added to each year.
“You get a sticker and basically your certificate has a circle for each year,” said Maratos. “So you can collect your stickers, so it’s good for the kids — actually adults too. I know a lot of them are pretty serious — ‘I want my sticker.’”
Terry Fox was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and raised in Port Coquitlam, BC.
At the age of 18, Fox had his right leg amputated after being diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a form of bone cancer.
Deeply saddened by the plight of fellow victims of cancer, Fox began his Marathon of Hope to raise money for cancer research in April of 1980.
Starting in Newfoundland, Fox ran 5,373 kilometres before having to stop in Ontario after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
Fox died June 28, 1981 of pneumonia.
Since its conception, the Terry Fox Foundation has raised more than $400 million worldwide for cancer research.