After 2 years, the Terry Fox Run is back in person

·3 min read
Participants in the Terry Fox Run ran along the waterfront in Kelowna, B.C., on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (Winston Szeto/CBC - image credit)
Participants in the Terry Fox Run ran along the waterfront in Kelowna, B.C., on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (Winston Szeto/CBC - image credit)

Thousands of British Columbians hit the pavement this Sunday as the 42nd annual Terry Fox Run returned in person after two years of COVID-19 restrictions.

The annual run that began in 1981 has raised over $850 million to date for 1,300 cancer research projects.

In 2020 and 2021, people completed the runs virtually — on their own — because of the pandemic, but this year organizers expected crowds of participants to take part in person.

According to the Terry Fox Foundation, some four million people in 560 communities will participate by running, walking, rollerblading or biking.

"It's exciting. There's quite an energy in the air getting back to in-person runs," said Michael Mazza, executive director of the Terry Fox Run, in an interview with The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn on Friday.

"I think we forgot how much we missed getting together as a community, and then we forgot a little bit how much work it is to get together."

Winston Szeto/CBC
Winston Szeto/CBC

In Vancouver's run in Stanley Park on Sunday, Jack Basterfield of the Terry Fox Foundation described the response as "incredible."

"Even before coming into today, we've actually raised more money at the Stanley Park run than we've ever raised," he said.

The Stanley Park participants included 80-year-old prostate cancer survivor Gordon Eaton, who said this is his 42nd year doing the run.

"We need the young ones to keep this going. As you know, cancer can be beaten," he said.

Shawn Foss/CBC
Shawn Foss/CBC

In B.C.'s northeast, residents of the small community of Hudson's Hope hit the streets running just one day after they were allowed to return to their homes following an evacuation order related to the Battleship Mountain wildfire.

Organizer James Naisby said he didn't make the final decision to participate until he woke up Sunday morning.

"Our house is still here. Everything seems pretty normal," he told CBC News.

Remembering Terry's legacy

The run marks 42 years since Terry Fox began the Marathon of Hope in St. John's, N.L.

The 21-year-old from Port Coquitlam, B.C., had lost part of his right leg to cancer when he was 18. He planned to run across Canada to raise money for the disease, running a marathon every day.

He made it as far as Thunder Bay, Ont., before the cancer spread to his lungs and he had to stop.

He died before he could complete his journey, but in the process he raised over $24 million. The foundation created in his name has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research in the four decades since Fox's death.

During the pandemic, participants were asked to complete the runs independently. Mazza said they saw a 30 per cent drop in donations, without much change last year. "This year we hope to surpass that," he said.

Michael Humer was 18 years old when Fox attempted to run across Canada in 1980. Today Humer is a thoracic surgeon at Kelowna General Hospital, examining non-cardiac diseases of the chest, such as lung and esophageal cancer.

"What Terry's doing is so apropos for my career. I'm well into my career and we have seen tremendous improvements with cancer survival but obviously we're still a long way to go and that's what Terry's fundraising efforts have all been about and we continue that," Humer told Daybreak South host Chris Walker on Friday.

The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press

Humer himself has participated in around 10 runs and will be lacing up his runners again this Sunday.

"It's the 42nd run. The irony is that 42 kilometres is a marathon, and Terry effectively ran a marathon everyday for 143 days in 1980 so we'll be continuing his legacy on Sunday."