Who was Terry Fox?
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Terry Fox (July 28th, 1958 – June 28th, 1981) was an inspirational Canadian athlete who attempted to run across Canada to raise awareness about cancer.
Terry Fox was diagnosed with cancer in 1977 while he was studying to become a P.E. teacher. The type of cancer he had, osteosarcoma, started in his knee and he had to have his right leg amputated when he was 18 years old. He continued to enjoy sports even with one leg and competed in national wheelchair basketball tournaments.
In order to raise awareness and help other people diagnosed with cancer, Terry decided he wanted to run a marathon across Canada. Running was especially difficult for him as he had to use a prosthetic leg which led to a distinctive combination of hopping and running that he said was painful for both his stump and good leg. Despite this, he trained hard and started his Marathon of Hope on April 12th, 1980 near St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador on the eastern coast of Canada. His goal was to run to Victoria, British Columbia, on the Pacific coast of Canada.
Hoping that he could get each Canadian to donate one dollar to cancer research (24 million dollars total), Terry Fox ran about a marathon a day for 143 days. Sometimes he had to run in terrible weather with cars forcing him off the road. At the start, his only support was a friend following his route in a van. But he slowly started getting more and more attention from media and people across the country followed his progress and supported him however they could.
On September 1st, 1980, after running 5,373 km, Terry Fox had to stop running outside Thunder Bay, Ontario due to serious chest pain. He was taken to the hospital and announced the next day that the cancer had spread to his lungs and he had to cancel the remaining part of his marathon so he could receive treatment. At the time, he had raised $1.7 million towards cancer research. Many people offered to finish the Marathon of Hope for him, but Terry Fox wanted to finish running it himself.
Unfortunately, Terry Fox never got the chance to complete his marathon and accomplish his goal. He passed away less than a year later, at age 22. Flags across Canada were lowered to half mast, and people across the country mourned his passing. The first annual Terry Fox Run was held in September of 1981 and people have continued to participate in Terry Fox Run marathons every year since his death.
Today, the Terry Fox Run is held in countries around the world and has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research. Canadian students are taught about Terry Fox and his "Marathon of Hope" in elementary school and you can find memorials to him across the country. In Canada, there are 14 schools named after Terry Fox as well as a research institute in Vancouver, and many buildings, roads, streets, and fitness trails.