Following Terry Fox

By John Brant From the January 2007 issue

After losing his leg to cancer, Terry Fox set out to do the impossible: run 5,300 miles across his native Canada, one five-hour marathon at a time. He died before he could reach his goal, but retracing his route 26 years later shows his legend to be very much alive.

Story Update · January 7, 2016

Although it’s been 36 years since he captivated Canada with his Marathon of Hope, Terry Fox remains an iconic figure in the fight against cancer. To date, more than $700 million has been raised for the Terry Fox Research Institute, much of it through events like the Terry Fox Run that occur in 32 countries worldwide. (more than 9,000 are held yearly across Canada). Fox’s younger brother, Darrell, who crewed him on his epic trek, now serves on the board of the Institute, which opened in October 2007 and focuses on hard-to-treat, rare, and resistant cancers. Research there includes an early-detection lung cancer technique that has saved thousands of lives, and a clinical trial exploring the feasibility of using biology (like viruses) rather than chemicals to attack cancer. Technology has also come a long way since Fox’s run: Advanced prosthetics now enable single- and double-leg amputees to become sprinters, marathoners, and world-class athletes. Technological advancements may also be why the drama and emotion of Fox’s run could not be replicated today, according to writer John Brant. “It would be very difficult for something like that to capture the undivided attention of a large group of people,” he says. “With social media, our attention is just so fractured.”

I read about Terry Fox as a little kid. He was in the book series on values, and the one that he represented was Tenacity. In my mind what remained most strongly was not the idea but the image of a canadian person taken into account in a all american culture, and also the fact that he was crippled, missing a leg, and nonetheless had the will and interest to go running as a an announcing flag that "all is possible" in a time when this was more related to spirit, and not so much to an economic or political false promise.