Terry Fox, a young athlete who lost his right leg to cancer, trained to run the length of a marathon (26.2 miles) every day for as long as it took to run across Canada. What became known as the Marathon of Hope inspired the nation and raised money for cancer research. In the easternmost city in Canada, St. John’s, Fox began his epic run.
Fox planned to run across Canada to raise funds for cancer research after being inspired by other young cancer patients he met during his own treatment. After finishing a 17-mile race on his artificial leg, Fox began preparing to run across the vast distances of his home country.
He would start the Marathon of Hope here, at the bustling and historic St. John’s Harbour, near the end of Water Street. He dipped his artificial leg into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean on April 12, 1980, and set out from there. He ran across the island of Newfoundland, following the Trans-Canada Highway. Moving with a hop-step gait, he would run the length of a marathon each day. As he continued through eastern Canada, the Marathon of Hope became a sensation and donations poured in. Fox’s goal was to raise $1 for each Canadian citizen, amounting to a total of about $24 million.
However, his journey would not be finished. On September 1, outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Fox fell short of breath and could not run anymore. The cancer that had originally taken his right leg had spread to his lungs. The athlete, who at that point had raised $1.7 million, was forced to end the Marathon of Hope after 143 days and 3,339 miles of running. He entered treatment once more, but the cancer continued to spread. Fox lost his battle with the disease and died on June 28, 1981 at the young age of 22.
Fox captivated the Canadian people and gained worldwide recognition. Pope John Paul II even sent him a telegram offering his prayers while the athlete was fighting for his life after the cancer returned. Though he didn’t consider himself disabled, he’s credited with elevating the visibility of disabled people within national discourse.
The Marathon of Hope continues to inspire Canadians and others around the world today. Terry Fox Runs are held in many Canadian cities and towns, and donations for cancer research in Fox’s name have reached over $650 million. Numerous cities throughout the country feature statues of Fox running, and some towns have even named streets after him. The statue in St. John’s, where it all began, shows Terry with his feet in the waters of the harbor, commencing his epic journey to make life better for those still fighting cancer.
Know Before You Go
The memorial is behind the St. John's Port Authority Building, pictured above. There are some free public parking spaces on the road into the Port Authority parking lot, as well as pay parking along Water Street.