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Born on this day
Estelle Fanta Swaray
3rd week in year
18 January 2021

Important eventsBack

Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope12.4.1980

Wikipedia (26 Mar 2013, 15:58)

The night before his cancer surgery, Fox had been given an article about Dick Traum, the first amputee to complete the New York City Marathon. The article inspired him; he embarked on a 14-month training program, telling his family he planned to compete in a marathon himself. In private, he devised a more extensive plan. His hospital experiences had made Fox angry at how little money was dedicated to cancer research. He intended to run the length of Canada in the hope of increasing cancer awareness, a goal he initially only divulged to his friend Douglas Alward.

Fox ran with an unusual gait, as he was required to hop-step on his good leg due to the extra time the springs in his artificial leg required to reset after each step. He found the training painful as the additional pressure he had to place on both his good leg and his stump led to bone bruises, blisters and intense pain. Fox found that after about 20 minutes of each run, he crossed a pain threshold and the run became easier.

In August 1979, Fox competed in a marathon in Prince George, British Columbia. He finished in last place, ten minutes behind his closest competitor, but his effort was met with tears and applause from the other participants. Following the marathon, he revealed his full plan to his family. His mother discouraged him, angering Fox, though she later came to support the project. She recalled, "He said, 'I thought you'd be one of the first persons to believe in me.' And I wasn't. I was the first person who let him down". Fox initially hoped to raise $1 million, then $10 million, but later sought to raise $1 for each of Canada's 24 million people.


Preparation

On October 15, 1979, Fox sent a letter to the Canadian Cancer Society in which he announced his goal and appealed for funding. He stated that he would "conquer" his disability, and promised to complete his run, even if he had to "crawl every last mile". Explaining why he wanted to raise money for research, Fox described his personal experience of cancer treatment:

I soon realized that that would only be half my quest, for as I went through the 16 months of the physically and emotionally draining ordeal of chemotherapy, I was rudely awakened by the feelings that surrounded and coursed through the cancer clinic. There were faces with the brave smiles, and the ones who had given up smiling. There were feelings of hopeful denial, and the feelings of despair. My quest would not be a selfish one. I could not leave knowing these faces and feelings would still exist, even though I would be set free from mine. Somewhere the hurting must stop....and I was determined to take myself to the limit for this cause.

Fox made no promises that his efforts would lead to a cure for cancer, but he closed his letter with the statement: "We need your help. The people in cancer clinics all over the world need people who believe in miracles. I am not a dreamer, and I am not saying that this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer. I believe in miracles. I have to." The Cancer Society was skeptical of his dedication, but agreed to support Fox once he had acquired sponsors and requested he get a medical certificate from a heart specialist stating that he was fit to attempt the run. Fox was diagnosed with left ventricular hypertrophy — an enlarged heart — a condition commonly associated with athletes. Doctors warned Fox of the potential risks he faced, though they did not consider his condition a significant concern. They endorsed his participation when he promised that he would stop immediately if he began to experience any heart problems.

A second letter was sent to several corporations seeking donations for a vehicle, running shoes and to cover the other costs of the run. Fox sent other letters asking for grants to buy a running leg. He observed that while he was grateful to be alive following his cancer treatment, "I remember promising myself that, should I live, I would rise up to meet this new challenge [of fundraising for cancer research] face to face and prove myself worthy of life, something too many people take for granted." The Ford Motor Company donated a camper van, while Imperial Oil contributed fuel, and Adidas his running shoes. Fox turned away any company that requested he endorse their products and refused any donation that carried conditions as he insisted that nobody was to profit from his run.


Trek across Canada

The Marathon began on April 12, 1980, when Fox dipped his right leg in the Atlantic Ocean near St. John's, Newfoundland, and filled two large bottles with ocean water. He intended to keep one as a souvenir and pour the other into the Pacific Ocean upon completing his journey at Victoria, British Columbia. Fox was supported on his run by Doug Alward, who drove the van and cooked meals.

Fox was met with gale force winds, heavy rain and a snowstorm in the first days of his run. He was initially disappointed with the reception he received, but was heartened upon arriving in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland, where the town's 10,000 residents presented him with a donation of over $10,000. Throughout the trip, Fox frequently expressed his anger and frustration to those he saw as impeding the run, and he fought regularly with Alward. By the time they reached Nova Scotia, they were barely on speaking terms, and it was arranged for Fox's brother Darrell, then 17, to join them as a buffer. Fox left the Maritimes on June 10 and faced new challenges entering Quebec due to his group's inability to speak French and drivers who continually forced him off the road. Fox arrived in Montreal on June 22, one-third of the way through his 8,000-kilometre (5,000 mi) journey, having collected over $200,000 in donations. Around this time, Terry Fox's run caught the attention of Isadore Sharp who was the founder and CEO of Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts—and who had lost a son to melanoma in 1978 just a year after Terry's diagnosis. Sharp was intrigued by the story of a one-legged kid "trying to do the impossible" and run across the country; so he offered food and accommodation at his hotels en route. When Terry was discouraged because so few people were making donations, Sharp pledged $2 a mile [to the run] and persuaded close to 1,000 other corporations to do the same. Sharp's encouragement persuaded Terry to continue with the Marathon of Hope. Convinced by the Canadian Cancer Society that arriving in Ottawa for Canada Day would aid fundraising efforts, he remained in Montreal for a few extra days.

   
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