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Hickok SportsThoughts

Sports historian and author Ralph Hickok of www.hickoksports.com sometimes meanders on about current happenings in sports and sometimes looks back in languor.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Terry Fox's Never-Ending Marathon

The 25th anniversary Terry Fox Run takes place today.
Chances are that you"ve never heard of it, unless you're a Canadian.
It's not really a sports event. It's not like the New York Marathon or the Iron Man Triathlon.
There are no gold medals, no big cash prizes. Yet there are so many winners that they can't be counted.
Terry Fox was by no means a great athlete, yet he performed one of the greatest athletic feats in history. He ran a marathon a day, for 143 consecutive days, on one leg.
I won't try to tell you the whole Terry Fox story. You can read much more here, at the official site of the Terry Fox Run. But here's a much-condensed version.
A native of Manitoba, Fox grew up in Coquitlam, British Columbia. He played basketball in high school, evidently with more determination than skill, and decided he wanted to become a phys ed teacher.
But, in his first year at Simon Fraser College, Fox learned that he had developed bone cancer. His right leg had to be amputated above the knee.
While in the hospital, he was moved by the number of children suffering with cancer, and he became determined to do something to raise Canada's awareness of their plight and, not so incidentally, to raise money for research.
Specifically, he decided that he would run across Canada. After being outfitted with an artificial leg and leaving the hospital, he spent 18 months training for the run.
Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope began on April 12, 1980, at St. John's, Newfoundland. It didn't get much attention at first, but momentum built as he ran a marathon a day through Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Quebec. In Ottawa, he kicked the opening ball for a Canadian Football League exhibition game. In Toronto, he was greeted by Darryl Sittler, who gave Fox his 1980 NHL All-Star Game sweater. Sittler commented, "I've been around athletes a long time and I've never seen any with his courage and stamina."
When Fox celebrated his 22nd birthday in Gravenhurst, Ontario, on July 28, he was presented with $14,000 that had been raised by that community of 8,000 people.
On August 4, Fox reached the halfway point, near Sudbury, Ontario. A television crew filmed his arrival in Thunder Bay on September 1.
That was the end of his run. Fox was suffering chest pain and difficulty in breathing. The cancer had spread to his lungs. He was flown to British Columbia for further treatment.
Others were ready to carry the torch. On September 2, Isadore Sharp of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts announced that he would hold an annual fund-raising run named for Terry Fox. A week later, the CTV network staged a five-hour telethon that raised $10 million for cancer research.
Despite chemotherapy, Terry Fox died on June 28, 1981, a month before his 23rd birthday.
The first annual Terry Fox run was held on September 1 at nearly 800 sites. The 300,000 runners raised $3.5 million. The total amount raised in Terry Fox's name for cancer research has since surpassed $360 million.
Twenty-five years ago, his run seemed to have ended. But it's still going on. There are now more than a thousand Terry Fox runs held in more than 50 countries. In Canada alone, more than 4 million people are expected to take part today.