Sunday, September 18, 2005

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 Globe and Mail ran a front-page article on Fox on Friday, and I found this comment particularly interesting:
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.
Terry Fox stubbornly persisted toward the goal he had set for himself, day after day, mile after mile, marathon after marathon.

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.]


At 1:18 AM, September 19, 2005, Blogger Carolyn said...

Thanks for sharing the story of Terry Fox. It was very inspirational, and I needed a little inspiration tonight.

At 9:27 AM, September 19, 2005, Blogger Mary P. said...

He was only a few years older than me, and I remember watching his progress on television. I was impressed by him then, and I am doubly impressed by him now, when I realize how young he was.

At 9:38 AM, September 19, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

• Carolyn:
You're very welcome!

We all need the occasional reminder that persistence tends to pay off in the long run.

• Mary P.:
I didn't fully appreciate what Fox was doing at the time, cynical teenager that I was.

btw, I've modified the post to include a link to your blog.

At 10:58 AM, September 19, 2005, Blogger Bill said...

Like You Q at the time I didn't have a great appreciation for what Terry Fox was doing. Some might say nostalgia makes heros, but I think it is more that heros are heros, cynicism just prevents us from acknowledging them in their life times.

It also could be as teens we were to busy assembling our own persona to give enough thought to the accomplishments of others. Unless we could use their accomplishments to help define our own personas. Like the person that would verbally support gay rights but avoid hugging a gay coworker lest he be thought to be gay.(as teens this is understandable as adults we should be beyond it)

It takes real courage to do something that would harm yourself like run across Canada.It also takes courage to be yourself, something I know I lacked at the time. What is incredible is Terry was 20 years old, while most of the me generation was desperately searching self gratification, he was running through Northern Ontario past endless stands of fir trees with only the drone of his chase vehicles and the click of his artificial leg, That is courage.

At 8:30 PM, September 19, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

Courage is what I see in the second photo I posted. Fox is engaged in an essentially solitary task, with a seemingly endless ribbon of highway unfurling behind him and before him.

It takes some endurance to drive from one city to another in this vast country, never mind running it.

At 2:29 AM, September 20, 2005, Blogger gypsyman said...

Since you had the decency to drop by for a visit, I thought I should reciprecate(my vocabluary far outstrips my spelling without a spellcheck; minor dyslexia)

Re your question about instances of land being forceably returned to native Canadians. The one instance I have read of was in British Columbia, this wasn't a case of land that had been in families for generations, but where an unscrupelouse developer had built houses on land that was contested and didn't tell peopele( or maybe the developer didn't know either, those aren't usually facts that provincial governments make very public)When the Nisak one their case(Have I got the Nation's name right)these people lost their homes.

To be honest I must tell you that what I write in my blog is rather more concillatory than what I feel. Since most of my opinions would alienate the majority of mainstream readers I tend to tone them down, or throw them something they can hang on too that may allow them to see both sides of an issue.

I see no point in"preaching to the converted" (most of the time) so I will almost devil's advocate myself while writing: trying to see how the majority percieve that issue.

That was the point, perception of unfairness to the majority: special treatment for a minority, ya dah dah, I'm sure you have heard that song countless times (front page of national post or any sun paper will do)

I post all of these articles at an American based news, view,opinions, and reviews site. If I want anyone to listen to what I say without having a cornary I have to water down content. Recently I argued in favour of our hate laws in an essay on free speech. Hardly anyone even read the article as far as I can tell; just reacted.(I think it's standing at over 500 comments after a week I stopped reading them around number 50)

This sure seems a round about way of answering your querey, but I hope it works. Anyway I was carefull not to say it had happened, but how would you feel if it did.

Ah well, by the way nice aritcle on Terry Fox. I liked him and his attitude, could never get my head around the idolatry and worship. A very brave man who did something bigger than himself.

It looks like that will be his legacy, which is great. That's somethng for everybody to emulate.

At 8:31 AM, September 20, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

For those of you who are scratching your heads in puzzlement, Gypsyman is responding to a comment I posted on his blog. The specific post was, Paying for the past.

Gypsyman, thanks for the fuller explanation. I'm not familiar with the case you mention, but it's certainly a feasible scenario. And I understand what you're saying about watering down your wine so that you don't close people's minds to what you have to say.

I'll be back to visit your blog. It looks quite interesting, and you never know what subject might elicit a comment from me.

At 7:04 PM, September 20, 2005, Blogger The Misanthrope said...

What an inspiration story. However, I believe everyone makes a difference, but often we don't know it and most likely the person that you influenced didn't even realize it. I think that all the blogs make some sort of difference and most likely we'll never know it. Case in point, you mentioned Mercy Corps and I responded. Many others did too without mentioning it.

At 8:33 AM, September 21, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

I believe everyone makes a difference, but often we don't know it and most likely the person that you influenced didn't even realize it.

I agree. I picture concentric circles spreading outward, like ripples in a pond. For some people (Fox, for example) the influence is more obvious and more extensive.

But at the very least, I make a difference in the lives of people in close proximity to me. And sometimes, as you point out, our influence extends further (e.g. through a blog).

Fox saw the first part of his dream realized, $1 in donations for every Canadian. But his influence extended much further than that: further than he ever knew.

I'm sure you're right, the same is true of us.


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