Thursday, April 14, 2011

Terry Fox's legacy: ‘Gracious and able to endure’

TwitterLinkedInEmail.Ben Kaplan, National Post · Apr. 12, 2011 | Last Updated: Apr. 12, 2011 7:41 PM ET

Runners of every stripe need to overcome obstacles and fight their way through a certain amount of pain. That’s notable if you’re a first-time runner, commendable if you’re training for your first marathon, impressive if you’re an Olympic athlete. But if you’re Terry Fox, well, there just isn’t an adjective in the Canadian vocabulary to describe it.

“You can be an Olympic athlete and be a horrible person — I’ve met plenty of Olympians who’ve won medals and are awful,” silver medallist Adam Kreek says from St. John’s, where he recently joined eight other Olympic and Paralympic athletes to commemorate the 31st anniversary of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope. “Terry was not only a hero because he ran across the country, but he’s the consummate Canadian — humble, gracious and able to endure.”

Fox, who dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean back on April 6, 1980, ran 5,373 kilometres, or a marathon a day for 143 often rainy days. It was the furthest, by far, that he had ever run. Before losing the leg to cancer, Fox only ran to keep fit for rugby, soccer and basketball. But when a malignant tumour left him an amputee, he ran his first long-distance race in Prince George, B.C. It was 1979, and he finished dead last in the 17-mile race. And then he had an idea.

“He came home that day and told the family that he wouldn’t be running the Vancouver Marathon. He was going to run across Canada instead,” says Fred Fox, Terry’s older brother, who oversees The Terry Fox Foundation, a cancer research charity that has raised more than $500-million. “He was just an average kid, no different from anyone else, and he had to work his damnedest to get every inch of mileage he achieved.”

In today’s running world — where one in every 33 Canadians owns running shoes — there are clinics to help get you started and specialized chips to place in the soles of your sneakers to keep track of your distance, calories burned and your times. But as we move toward race season, kicking off this Sunday in Montreal, we should remember that running also requires hard work, spirit and dedication. And that’s why even the most casual weekend warriors still find inspiration in Terry Fox and his incredible run.

“You have to use your willpower to complete all your runs,” says Sidney Moss, 79, a five-day-a-week runner in Montreal, still running after triple bypass surgery and an aneurysm of the aorta. “Running is never easy, but when you need inspiration, look at Terry’s feat.”

The event yesterday in St. John’s brought out droves of people in the cold and rain. Those who were there say the conversations weren’t about split times or sneakers and that nobody was complaining about how much they train.

Instead, it was a celebration of character, one that has as much to do with life as it does with running.

“I’m a pretty loud guy, pretty outgoing, but this morning I wanted to take everything in,” says Greg Westlake, a Paralympic athlete who had both of his feet amputated at 10 months old. “There’s a million athletes and a million celebrities, but no other Terry. He taught everyone not to quit.”

No comments: