British Columbia

Terry Fox Run goes virtual to honour Marathon of Hope's 40th anniversary

On Sept. 1, 1980, Terry Fox struggled through coughing fits on what would be the final leg of the Marathon of Hope. The next day, doctors told him he had lung cancer.

40 years ago today, Terry Fox ran the final leg of the Marathon of Hope outside Thunder Bay, Ont.

Terry Fox ran the final leg of his Marathon on Hope on Sept. 1, 1980. The next day he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died the following year.

Forty years ago today, Terry Fox wondered as he headed toward Thunder Bay, Ont., if he might be running the final steps in his Marathon of Hope.

The searing pain of the ankle tendonitis he was battling had mercifully died down.

But now there was an ache in his chest that was triggering coughing fits. 

Later, his diary would reveal how the crowds cheering from the side of the road pushed Fox forward that day, until he just couldn't run any more.

Terry Fox smiles from his bed at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, B.C., days after he was forced to abandon the Marathon of Hope. (Andy Clark/Canadian Press)

"There was a camera crew waiting at the three-quarter mile point to film me. I don't think they even realized that they filmed my last mile," Fox wrote.

"… people were still saying, 'You can make it all the way, Terry.' I started to think about those comments in that mile, too. Yeah, I thought, this might be my last one."

The next day, doctors told Fox the cancer that had claimed his right leg had now reappeared in his lungs.

After running a marathon a day for 143 days, his attempt to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research was over.

He died the following year, one month shy of his 23rd birthday. But his legacy was only beginning.

Terry Fox with a couple of young fans during his cross-Canada run in 1980 to raise funds for cancer research. (Submitted by Darrell Fox)

Four decades later, the Terry Fox Foundation has announced that this year's Terry Fox Run will also persevere in honour of the 40th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the annual community fundraising runs a no-go. So a virtual version will be held on Sept. 20, with the theme "One Day. Your Way."

Organizers are asking people to sign up at terryfox.org to "walk, run, dance or hike on a favourite route with your favourite people," while raising funds for cancer research. 

"Cancer isn't waiting for the pandemic to end and neither can we," said Ara Sahakian, Terry Fox Foundation interim executive director.

Fred Fox says his little brother would have never believed that over $800 million has been raised for cancer research in his name.

His goal when he started the run in April 1980 was to raise $24 million — one dollar for every Canadian.

"Our family is so thankful for how Canadians have embraced Terry and his mission and made such an incredible impact on cancer research," said Fred Fox.

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