It’s impossible to imagine Canada without Terry Fox’s legacy.
The legendary amputee runner began his Marathon of Hope at Cape Spear, Newfoundland, thirty years ago today.
Yet no one then could have foreseen the outcome of his mighty dream – not even Terry Fox himself, who’d be in his fifty-second year if he were alive now.
Ironically, Terry Fox didn’t succeed in crossing the whole country in the summer of 1980. He kept up his deadly 26-mile-a-day pace over a grueling five-month journey, and won the love and support of the entire country in the bargain. But he faltered just east of Thunder Bay, Ontario, terminally ill with cancer, unable to continue. He never resumed his run. Terry Fox died just nine months later, on June 28th of 1981.
Still, The Marathon of Hope never stopped. Fox had hoped to raise a dollar from every Canadian; before he died he lived to see that dream come true. He also lived long enough to receive the Order of Canada as the hero he was.
Terry Fox didn’t live to see the Marathon of Hope become an annual tradition in Canada and around the world. He didn’t live to see the cancer that first claimed his leg and ultimately his life become largely survivable – thanks in part to the research funded by his work.
Terry Fox didn’t live to see tributes to his memory put in place across the country. His likeness is commemorated in the Terry Fox Monument near the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, and the Terry Fox Lookout near Thunder Bay where he fell is a hallowed pilgrimage along the Trans Canada Highway.
There are streets and schools, a highway, a ship, a mountain, and a provincial park named for Terry Fox, among many other memorials. In a national poll he was voted one of the ten Greatest Canadians.
He didn’t live to see these things. He likely wouldn’t have dreamed of them; his dreams were of his Marathon and what it might do for others. But thirty years after he stuck his toe in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, his Marathon of Hope is alive and well.
That is a dream big enough for a nation, and one that has happily come true.
We can all thank Terry Fox for that.