#TerryFoxRun and the #Barefoot #Running Coach – 36 Years and Counting:

On Sunday, September 18, I ran in the 35 th Terry Fox Run for Cancer Research for the 35th – actually, make that the 36th – time. I say the 36th time due to the fact that I ran 12 kilometres of the Marathon of Hope with Terry. Needless to say, this was a surreal experience for a 25 year old kid from small town Oshawa, Ontario.

I had a fitness consulting business in London, Ontario (having graduated a few years earlier with my Masters degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Western Ontario) and was asked by Bob Vigars (the Head Track & Field coach of UWO at the time) if I would accompany Terry from the outskirts of London to a civic reception in Victoria Park. I was one of 5 hand-selected fitness professionals recruited to run with Terry. Bob’s brother, Bill, was a senior adviser with the Canadian Cancer Society who coordinated much of the support for Terry during some of the Marathon of Hope. Bill reached out to Bob who in turn  recruited me and the others. At the end of the day, it’s a small world!

On the day we were to run with Terry, Bill Vigars presented us with the official Marathon of Hope T-shirt that we would wear for the 12 kilometres. This was the same t-shirt worn daily by Terry. After 10 years of me wearing the shirt proudly, it literally disintegrated – never to be replaced! I have many memories of that day and experience. A few of them are as follows:

  • as we were dropped off just outside of London, I remember how eerily quiet it was as we waited for Terry’s arrival
  • I remember Terry running toward us with his support team following in a customized Winnebago
  • I remember seeing the pain etched in his face as he ‘fox-trotted’ toward us – the stump of his amputated leg bleeding into his grey shorts
  • I remember the sweat soaking his shorts, shirt and socks
  • I remember his curly brown hair dripping with sweat, bobbing with each pain-staking stride
  • I remember falling in beside Terry with strict instructions to stay just behind him and well to the side. There was only a quick head nod between us…acknowledgment of our presence and thanks for our support. All of Terry’s energy was channeled toward getting his prosthetic leg hooked in front of his good leg
  • I remember thinking that this is one tough dude with a will to achieve great things
  • I remember Terry picking up the pace consistently as we got closer to the city centre and more and more Londoners gathered to cheer him on
  • I remember hearing the cheers, clapping and shout-outs – “keep going, Terry” – and getting goose bumps all over my body. The energy along the route was palpable
  • I remember Terry somehow picking up the pace with each kilometre until we were running at a sub 5 minute kilometre pace. He seemed to gain energy from the masses of people cheering him on – many of them hanging out office windows and store fronts
  • I remember people running up to me and shoving $5, $10 & $20 bills into my hands, thinking I was part of Terry’s donation collection team. As I said earlier, it was surreal
  • I remember entering Victoria Park beside Terry thinking “my God, there must be 10,000 people in the park waiting for this courageous, young Canadian”
  • finally, I remember shaking Terry’s hand and telling him to “stay strong and never give up”. It was all I could do to keep from tearing up. He sincerely thanked me before being hustled away by his team to address the masses

Needless to say, I had no idea at the time that Terry was 1 year away from dying – that the effort required to run half way across Canada would totally compromise his body’s ability to fight the cancer attacking his body. I had no idea of knowing how, 35 years later, Terry’s Marathon of Hope would still be going strong. I had no idea that in the ensuing years much of the millions raised would help save the lives of hundreds of Canadians. Terry’s dream of a cure for cancer has yet to be realized. However, I know he looks down from heaven, smiles broadly and says “well done, Canada, and thank you for supporting me and the Terry Fox Foundation for Cancer Research. See you next year”!

Yet again this year, I ran barefoot, hard and faster than normal…pushing up the pain threshold in an effort to duplicate the pain Terry felt every stride of his Marathon of Hope. I figure if he could dig deep to realize I goal, the least I can do is carry on his memory…and dig VERY deep!

I leave you with this – live passionately, engage people powerfully, make a positive difference in all areas of your life and…NEVER GIVE UP!

coach Jeff


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