Celebrate Canada’s greatest ever athlete

By Nigel Gordijk.

My first trip to Canada was to visit family in Kitchener during the summer of 1980. While I was here, I watched hours of TV since many North American shows didn't make it across the Pond.

Admittedly, this wasn't the best investment of my vacation time, and even back then I was aware this wasn't doing my brain much good. I can't remember any of the shows I watched, except for one event – covered by the national news – that remains embedded.

A young Canadian had captured the nation's imagination, having embarked on a run the length of the country to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Fundraising runs are commonplace now, but back in 1980 the sheer scale of what 22-year-old Terry Fox attempted was unheard of. His Marathon of Hope was inspired by the suffering of fellow cancer patients while he was in hospital to have his right leg amputated below the knee, following a bone cancer diagnosis.

Starting in St. Johns, Newfoundland, this determined young man endured unimaginable pain while running with a hop-step gait on his artificial leg, yet he still managed to cover 42 kilometres every day. The impact put pressure on both his good leg and the stump to which he had a prosthetic attached, leading to bone bruises and blisters. Terry found that within 20 minutes of each day's exertions, he would cross a pain threshold and the run became easier.

Terry's heroic attempt ended on September 1, 1980, 143 days into his run. The punishing daily marathon had taken its toll on his health, and the cancer spread to his lungs. By the end, he'd covered 5,373 kilometres, two-thirds of the way towards his 8,000 kilometre goal.

This on its own is a miraculous achievement, given his illness, but on top of the wished-for awareness he also raised $1.7 million for cancer research. More importantly, his courage touched a nerve and left behind a legacy.

Today, 34 years after his death, Terry Fox's accomplishments are still celebrated, with annual runs in his name taking place around the world. (The world's biggest Run is in Cuba, with over 1,000,000 participants.)

On Sunday, September 20, 2015, starting at New Hamburg's Scott Park, I'll be running alongside dozens of local participants of all ages and abilities who will walk or run to commemorate the short life of this courageous and tenacious athlete who inspired millions. I invite you to join us.

Think you're not up to it? Then imagine what this young man endured with each agonizing step. Please help us to honour his legacy of advancing cancer research and treatment by walking, running or sponsoring a neighbour.

To find out more about this event, please visit www.wilmotterryfox.ca.