Terry Fox: The Man Who Wouldn’t Back Down

Terry Fox , The Man Who Wouldn't Back Down

Inspirational heroes are everywhere we look – up on the big screen, living in the pages of our history textbook, and in bedtime stories told to us as kids. But there are thousands of everyday, extraordinary people who go above and beyond what is thought to be humanly possible. One person in particular – Terry Fox – was faced with such excruciatingly difficult circumstances, but still managed to rise above it all and inspire hope to others.

Keep reading to learn about the incredibly powerful story of this young runner who became known as the “Man Who Wouldn’t Back Down.”  

Who Is Terry Fox?

Terry Fox was born on July 28, 1958, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He was dedicated to excelling at school and spots. At only 18 years old, Terry was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, right above his right knee. In 1977, Terry was forced to have his right leg amputated six inches above his knee. He had to spend a lot of time in the cancer wing of a children’s hospital which inspired him to race to raise money for cancer research.

Why Is He Called “The Man Who Wouldn’t Back Down?” 

After receiving an artificial leg, Terry had re-learned how to run. Just two years after his diagnosis and amputation, Terry joined the 0.01% of people in the world who complete a marathon, which is 26.2 miles long. But the marathon distance was not enough for Terry. He decided to go further, running across Canada to raise money for cancer research and treatment! He called his run the “Marathon of Hope.” 

Now, Terry didn’t just go from racing 26.2 miles to racing across the country overnight. He trained by running over 3,100 miles in preparation. 

How Far Did Terry Fox Run?

The “Marathon of Hope” started on April 12, 1980, at St. John’s in Newfoundland. During that time, there was no social media and not a lot of coverage on Terry’s run and mission. But, the further he ran, the more fan engagement and excitement grew, which also meant more money was raised for a great cause. Terry ended up running between 26 to 30 miles per day, covering areas like Canada’s Atlantic provinces, Quebec, and Ontario. 

How Much Money Did Terry’s “Marathon of Hope” Raise?

Unfortunately, Terry began to experience tight pains in his chest and was forced to stop running on September 1, 1980. By that point, Terry had run for 143 days. When doctors examined Terry, it appeared the cancer had spread to his lungs. he was forced to stop running the “Marathon of Hope” indefinitely. At the time he had stopped, Terry had run exactly 3,339 miles and raised $1.7 million Canadian dollars.

Terry Fox tragically died a few months after racing on June 28, 1981. He was only 22 years old.

Terry Fox and others during the Marathon of Hope
Doug Alward, Terry Fox and Darrell Fox near White River, Ontario, during the Marathon of Hope. (Courtesy Terry Fox Foundation)

Terry Fox’s Legacy Lives On

Before he died, the Canadian government awarded him the honor of “Companion of the Order of Canada.” He was the youngest recipient of this honor and was also named “Canadian of the Yeartwice

Also, in 1981, Terry’s “Marathon of Hope” ended up raising $24 million in donations, including his “once unimaginable goal of $1 from every Canadian.”

Now, there is a foundation in his name. The Terry Fox Foundation strives to create a world without cancer and host an annual “Terry Fox Runs” to raise money for cancer research. These runs are organized not just in Canada, but around the world. They have successfully raised over $800 million in honor of Terry Fox and his mission to beat cancer. 

Watch Terry’s incredibly powerful story here!

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