Saturday, January 21, 2017

Running with Terry Fox

It was near the end of grade six at Edmison Heights Public School in Peterborough, Ontario, that I first heard the name of Terry Fox, and learned of his quest to run across Canada on one leg. I found the short radio news broadcast of interest because at the time I considered myself a long distance cross-country runner. I ran most days in the early morning before school from my house on Royal Drive down to the Peterborough Riverside Zoo trails that snaked along beside the Trent River. These were the days when Bill Rodgers was at his prime, having won the Boston Marathon, three straight years, 1978-1980. I purchased every issue of Runner’s World to learn the latest tips for diet and training regimes.

When I heard that Terry Fox would be running through Peterborough I eagerly arranged to have my parents take me to where he would be heading. The meeting place was on George Street out in front of the public library. I was one of about a dozen runners who showed up to run with him.

He smiled, but looked weary when he arrived, running with an unusual gait, ahead of his support vehicle. We continued with him down George Street. Some of us had plastic buckets that we used to collect donations from pedestrians, who curiously watched us from the sidewalk. There weren’t many people who gave that day. I was discouraged that more of a crowd hadn’t turned out for his reception. We ran with him to the steps of the hotel where he would be spending the night. He took the time to thank us, and shook our hands, before he starting to answer the questions from the media scrum gathered by the main entrance.

I was so inspired by this meeting with Terry Fox that I upped my training efforts that summer. When I heard that Terry’s cancer had returned, and he had to cut his run short, I convinced a friend that we should run a marathon distance for him and collect pledges.

We wrote on white t-shirts in permanent black marker, “We Are Running For Terry” and set out on a cool autumn Saturday morning. I had only run a ½ marathon once before, so this ended up being a challenge. My parents followed us in their car, and provided snacks and drinks along the way. We began the run on Armour Road in Peterborough, and followed it until it joined another street that meandered through Trent University. We turned onto Nassau Mills Road that runs along beside the Otonabee River, and continued to press on to Lakefield. Looping back on Lakefield Road, fatigue began to set in. To keep motivated the last hours of the run we spent talking about what we would eat when we were finished (A can of Chef Boyardee beef ravioli had never tasted so good).

By the time we were back to my home in Peterborough the car speedometer said that we had exceeded the marathon distance. We ended up collecting over a hundred and twenty five dollars in pledges, and donated it to cancer research.

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