Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope

The young B.C. man ran the equivalent of a marathon every day on a prosthetic leg in the spring and summer of 1980. His goal? To raise money for cancer research.

After losing a leg to osteosarcoma, he began a cross-country run to raise funds for cancer research

Marathon of Hope runner, Terry Fox, shown in this undated photo, had his dream of running across the country cut short near Thunder Bay, Ont., when he learned that cancer had spread to his lungs. (Canadian Press)

The night before his right leg was amputated in 1977, 18-year-old Terry Fox read about an amputee who ran the New York Marathon.

That article and the other patients he met during his own cancer treatment inspired the Marathon of Hope, an incredible cross-Canada run to raise money for cancer research.   

On April 12, 1980, Fox — with a support team in a van following behind him — set out on his run after training for 15 months.

The Marathon of Hope started with Fox dipping his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean, in St. John's, N.L. He hoped to finish in the fall by stepping into the Pacific. 

The determined Fox vowed "to give it everything I possibly can," telling CBC — as seen in the video below — that if he couldn't do it, nobody could.

Terry Fox begins his run across Canada

44 years ago
Duration 0:44
Terry Fox states his determination to run across Canada and raise money for cancer research. Aired on April 12, 1980 on CBC's The National.

By the time he reached Ontario that summer, attention and momentum were building, as heard during his weekly telephone phone check-in with CBC Radio's Sound of Sports on June 29, 1980. 

Host Fred Walker covered the run for radio from the start, and finally met Fox face-to-face in Toronto a month later. 

In a July 27 interview for Sound of Sports, Walker spoke to Fox about the young man's decision to start the run and how Fox altered his technique to compensate for his artificial leg. 

Fox stressed that he was still positive in his outlook about finishing, and how that was helped by the momentum of support from Canadians.

Hoped to have been 'an inspiration'

Sadly, his run came to an abrupt end at the start of September, near Thunder Bay, Ont.

Speaking to reporters and with his family beside him, an emotional Fox announced that he had to give up and return home for treatment. The cancer had spread to his lungs. 

"I hope that what I've done has been an inspiration, " he said. "People will take off and continue where I left off here."

The end of the run for Terry Fox

43 years ago
Duration 0:40
Terry Fox tells Canadians that he's been forced to end his marathon run across the country. Aired Sept. 2, 1980 on CBC's The National.

Fox died on June 28, 1981, just a month shy of his 23rd birthday. 

In tribute to the late runner, on Sept. 13, 1981, the first annual Terry Fox Run was held

People of all ages and abilities participated, including his wheelchair basketball teammate Rick Hansen, and Dick Traum, the New York businessman whose story had first inspired Fox. 


  • A previous version of this story misstated the start date of Terry Fox's run as April 21, 1980. In fact, he started his run on April 12, 1980.
    Mar 27, 2020 2:05 PM ET