143 consecutive marathons
Stop any Canadian at random and they will probably be able to tell you this man's name:
This is a photo of Terry Fox, who ran a marathon a day for 143 consecutive days, regardless of the weather conditions. The goal: to raise money for cancer, which had resulted in the amputation of Fox's right leg.
That's right: Fox ran 143 consecutive marathons on one real leg and one artificial leg.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Fox's astounding achievement. The annual Terry Fox run took place today; hence the timing of this post.
These are the facts, in brief:
- March 9, 1977 — Fox, then eighteen years old, goes to a doctor complaining of a pain in his right knee. Tests reveal that he has osteogenic sarcoma, a rare bone cancer. Within days, his leg is amputated six inches above the knee.
- April 1977 — He begins sixteen months of chemotherapy treatment.
- February 1979 — He starts training for his Marathon of Hope, a cross-Canada run to raise money for cancer research. He runs over 5,000 kilometres (3,107 miles) in training.
- April 12, 1980 — St John's, Newfoundland: He dips his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean and begins his journey. His goal is to average 26 miles — a marathon — each day.
- Initially, Canadians aren't paying much attention. But inexorably, as the weeks pass and Fox continues to grind out the miles, attention begins to grow.
- September 1, 1980 — He is forced to stop running outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario; his primary cancer has spread to his lungs. He has been running for 143 days and covered 3,339 miles. (An average of 23.35 miles per day.)
- September 9, 1980 — The CTV network organizes a telethon, which lasts five hours and raises $10 million. Fox watches the event from his hospital room but falls asleep before the end, exhausted from his cancer treatment.
- February 1, 1981 — Terry's dream of raising $1 from every Canadian is realized. The national population reaches 24.1 million; the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope fund totals $24.17 million.
- June 28, 1981 — Fox dies at Royal Columbian Hospital – one month short of his 23rd birthday. Tributes pour in from around the world.
- September 13, 1981 - The first Terry Fox Run is held at more than 760 sites in Canada and around the world. The event attracts 300,000 participants and raises $3.5 million for cancer research.
- June 30, 1999 - Terry Fox is voted Canada's Greatest Hero in a national survey.
- Terry Fox runs have taken place annually. To date, over $360 million has been raised for cancer research.
- The one thing that Doug Alward has never understood about his best friend is how he did it. Terry Fox was, in Mr. Alward's opinion, a terrible athlete.
He couldn't play, but wouldn't quit, and coaches eventually let him play because of this. He was on the junior varsity basketball team at Simon Fraser [University] when he lost his right leg to cancer, but still he refused to quit, taking up running as soon as he could and claiming he would run across the country to raise money for cancer research.
His example persists to this day, and the cause he set in motion continues onward.
Bravo, Terry! Sometimes, an individual makes a difference.
[For a poignant insight into this year's Terry Fox run, check out Courage in small packages on Mary P.'s blog.]