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Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope turns 40

Forty years ago, Terry Fox had begun his trans-Canada run for cancer research

Terry Fox

On April 12, 1980, a 21-year-old kid from Port Coquitlam, B.C. dipped his right leg in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of St. John’s, N.L., started running west. This kid was Terry Fox, and his right leg, now coated with saltwater, was artificial. His leg had been amputated three years earlier after he was diagnosed with cancer, and that was why he was running: to raise money for cancer research. Fox planned to run across Canada, from Newfoundland to B.C., and although he fell short of this goal, he created an incredible legacy that lives on, 40 years later.

The Marathon of Hope

Fox trained for a year and a half and covered over 5,000 kilometres in preparation for his trans-Canada run. By April 1980, he was set to go, and he took off in Newfoundland. After 143 days and 5,373 kilometres of running, he made it to Thunder Bay, Ont. By then, cancer had spread to his lungs, forcing him to head home earlier than planned. In his time on the road, he covered almost a full marathon per day. Less than a year after cutting his run short, Fox passed away in June 1981 at just 22 years old.

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Forty years ago today, Fox was somewhere between St. John’s and Gander, N.L., running solo for the second day in a row with his best friend following along in a van. Over the course of his run, he and the Marathon of Hope garnered attention from millions of people across Canada, and what started as a small run with few followers grew into a well-known and highly-anticipated event as Canadians awaited Fox’s appearance in their provinces and towns.

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A continued legacy

Today, four decades later, the name Terry Fox is one with which few Canadians aren’t familiar. The Terry Fox Foundation continues to raise money for cancer research, and every September millions of Canadians raise money for and participate in the Terry Fox Run. The event has grown internationally, too, and there are Terry Fox Runs across the world. To date, over $750 million has been raised by the Terry Fox Foundation for cancer research. The 2020 Terry Fox Run is set for September 20.