This Week in History


The Beginning of the Marathon of Hope

For the week of Monday April 12, 2010

On April 12, 1980, Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He dipped his artificial foot in the Atlantic Ocean and began his cross-Canada run to raise money for cancer research.

Terry Fox running near Thunder Bay, Ontario.
© Ed Linkewich, 1980
Born on July 28, 1958, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Terry Fox later moved with his family to Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. Active in sports, at 18 he was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer), which required that most of his right leg be amputated. It was a shock to learn that cancer can happen to anybody, even to little children, even to himself.

While undergoing chemotherapy, he learnt how innovative his treatment was, and came to realise the necessity of cancer research. He knew he was lucky when his cancer went into remission, while others around him did not survive. Terry knew he had to do something. He wanted to live a full life, but he couldn't forget those still suffering from cancer. He audaciously decided he would raise funds for cancer research by running across Canada. He called it the Marathon of Hope.

His initial goal was to increase public awareness of cancer and raise $1 million for cancer research. In Port-Aux-Basques, Newfoundland, however, he discovered the potential of his run. Given that this town of 10,000 people was able to raise $10,000, Fox now hoped to raise $1 for every Canadian citizen. He continued running west, drawing crowds of thousands of people and raising thousands of dollars.

Terry Fox with his friend Doug Alward in St. John's, Newfoundland, on the day he began his Marathon.
© Terry Fox Foundation, 1980
On September 1, 1980, he had to stop running on a stretch of highway near Thunder Bay, Ontario, when his cancer returned. He was taken back to British Columbia for treatment, and although he hoped to eventually finish his run, the treatment failed.

He died on June 28 of the next year. Fundraising, however, had continued. People were so inspired by his Marathon of Hope that by the time of his death, more than $24 million had been raised.

Fundraising in his name continues today through the Terry Fox Foundation. The Terry Fox Run has become an annual tradition in Canada, and more than 30 other countries. So far, over $500 million has been raised for cancer research in his name.

In the course of 143 days, he had run 5,373 km, nearly a full marathon almost every day. For the heroism of his Marathon of Hope, for his athleticism and his highly personal and inspirational humanitarian and philanthropic purpose, Terry Fox was designated a National Historic Person in 2007.

For more information on Terry Fox and the Marathon of Hope, see the Terry Fox Foundation Web site:

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