When I was a kid I ran the Terry Fox Run pretty much every year. I remember scouring the neighbourhood knocking on doors to fill my pledge sheet and the crisp, fall mornings where I would run my heart out for Terry. I also remember the cool iron-on decal I got to melt onto my t-shirt of choice. In the fifteen years (!) I’ve been in Calgary I haven’t done it once. Because the run typically falls on a Sunday, which is usually my day off training, I never seemed to make it out.
Every year I would think to myself, ‘this year I’m going to run the Terry Fox Run‘, but somehow the day would simply come and go, which is strange really, because I pretty much consider Terry Fox to be my greatest hero of all time. I’ve read Leslie Scrivener’s book, simply called Terry Fox: His Story, at least a hundred times and it seems every time I read it I learn something new about Terry I didn’t know before.
Whenever I give a presentation to a school I always tell the kids about my inspiration to start speed skating, which came from legendary Canadian speed skater Gaetan Boucher. Mostly these days the kids do not know who he is. This makes me feel a tad old, but they are easily forgiven as most of them weren’t born until ten years after his last race. But if I start to talk about Terry Fox, every single kid in every single school knows him, knows his story and knows his struggle. Now that’s what I call a legacy.
I’m not sure if it was because this year marked the 30th anniversary of Terry’s epic run across Canada, but early on in the spring I resolved that no matter the circumstance I would do the run this year, even if it meant walking the 1km route. In the weeks leading up to the run I rallied my teammates to join me and make it a team event. Eight of us convened on the chilly, rainy Sunday morning and joined the throngs of runners who were running for Terry and what he represents. Many runners wore t-shirts and signs that bore names and photos of family members and friends who had lost their battle with cancer.
With the exception of our teammate Jordan, who came prepared to run the 5km and accidentally ran the 10km, we began the run with the crowd of runners, but being the dedicated and focussed athletes we are, observed our day off from training and simply walked the route. It felt really good to be there, to remember Terry and commemorate his incredible run and fight for a cure. I thought about his legacy and just how far reaching and significant it really is. I could attempt to put it in my own words, but when I got home that afternoon I read this editorial in the Globe and Mail and I think it sums it up perfectly:
“What Terry Fox gave to Canada’s children, and the world’s, is as impressive as the $553-million raised in his name for cancer research. He gave children an enduring figure of inspiration. His run, a marathon a day for an astounding 143 days, which ended 30 years ago this month when his cancer returned, offers many practical lessons.
The first lesson is to have a bullheaded belief in oneself. His mother, Betty, thought the 21-year-old’s idea was “stupid.” It was dangerous to be running on the highway. It would be bad for his health. He did it, anyway. (Adults tend to offer this lesson up in theory and ask their children to retreat from it in practice.)
The second lesson is a practical one in how to achieve one’s goals, no matter how large they are. “I set a thousand goals today,” he said one day during his run. He meant that he took things one tree, one road sign and one day at a time. “It would be impossible to take it all at once.” The seemingly impossible was built on a thousand small tasks.
The third lesson is to have a purpose larger than oneself. Mr. Fox felt that Canada was not contributing enough to cancer research. Any research done with the money he raised while he ran could not possibly have benefited himself. He ran 5,373 kilometres, from St. John’s to just outside Thunder Bay; the larger purpose was his fuel.
The fourth lesson is in overcoming pain, or any large obstacle to meeting one’s goals. Mr. Fox did not walk his 26 miles a day; he ran them, on one good leg and a prosthetic one, and the pain was acute throughout. Lessons one, two and three are a partial help in explaining how he did it. Lesson four, though, is really about the power of grit, determination and courage.
The fifth lesson is that no foe is too big to fight. Mr. Fox’s dream was to raise $1 for every Canadian (there were then 24 million Canadians). His larger dream was that research could beat cancer. Some young people are brave enough to stand up to a schoolyard bully. He fought the biggest bully of them all. Research hasn’t won yet, but it has landed many solid punches.
The sixth lesson is that anyone who subscribes to the first five lessons can do it. Terry Fox was what people sometimes call, clumsily, an ordinary Canadian. He was not rich; his parents were not famous. In all children lives the possibility of a marathon of hope no one else has dreamed of.”
Words to live by.
p.s. I saw this Nike commercial on one of my fave websites, The Good News Network. Check it out!