Like many runners, I keep track of my mileage. Well, to be honest, the Running Ahead website keeps a running tally (literally!) for me. Back in June, I hit upon the notion of making that number meaningful by seeing how far my total yearly mileage to date would get me if I’d been running each day from my home in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia west towards where I grew up in Kingston, Ontario. To my surprise, my total in June put me well past Kingston to a spot near Barrie. Since then, I’ve tracked my mileage to Thessalon, Lake Superior Provincial Park, and Marathon, Ontario.
One thing I’m learning is that Ontario is huge. My total mileage as of yesterday was 3,103.5km – and I’m still in Ontario – still well inside Ontario – with no end in sight. Turns out that I’m just outside Thunder Bay, near where the road to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park meets the Trans-Canada Highway (or the TCH as we called ‘er when I lived in Newfoundland).
|The Sleeping Giant|
I’ve been to Thunder Bay in real life a few times. J-A’s folks are originally from there – and most of her extended family lives there. I also had great friends from there back in undergrad.
For any runner on the outskirts of Thunder Bay, though, the place to go is the Terry Fox Memorial. This is the area where, in 1980, the physical part of Terry’s Marathon of Hope, his run across Canada, ended – considering how his legacy has endured, however, it would be hard to say that his Marathon of Hope has actually ended. Every September, thousands of people across the world still take part in Terry Fox runs to raise money for cancer research – and they’ve raised over $500 million since 1980.
|Silhouette of the Terry Fox Memorial in T-Bay|
I’ve seen the memorial in person. The place and the statue are beautiful tributes to his courage and determination. It still boggles my mind to think of how much he achieved, even just in terms of running – he ran 42km every day. And all of it was motivated by compassion for those he saw suffering (like he did) through months of chemo – and for those (like him) who eventually died from the disease. His thinking for the marathon was clear: medical research had prolonged his life – but there was so little money being spent on research (this was 1980) – so he wanted to raise money for research that would save and prolong lives.
What the hell else is money for?
Of course, there was more than this going on. Here’s an excerpt from his letter to the Canadian Cancer Society when he was asking for support for his run:
“[...] 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.”
Somewhere the hurting must stop.
And he was pure about the whole thing – he was no McRunner. He approached lots of companies for support, but he refused any company that asked him to endorse products. The Marathon of Hope was not about profit – nobody was going to gain financially from the hurting; instead, the run was about easing suffering and saving lives.
Here’s something you may not have known about Terry. After his leg was amputated, Rick Hansen approached him to see if he was interested in playing wheelchair basketball. Within months, he was good enough for Hansen’s team, and they went on to win three national titles – and he was named an all-star by the North American Wheelchair Basketball Association in 1980.
The guy had skills.
And the run continues...