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Terry Fox: His Legacy and My Mental Motivation

A day after running my first 5K in over three years, I’m still on a runner’s high. Last Sunday I took part in my local Terry Fox run right here in Paris. This race is very close to my heart for a numbers of reasons. Let me start off by explaining who Terry Fox was for those of you that might not know.

Terry Fox at the start of his run in Newfoundland. Photo Credit - Terry Fox Foundation.

Terry Fox was a Canadian hero and truly an inspiring human being. At the young age of 22, after battling cancer and losing his leg above the knee, he started the Marathon of Hope. Terry’s goal was to run across Canada raising money and awareness for cancer research. He started his Marathon of Hope by dipping his prosthetic leg in the Atlantic Ocean in St. John’s, Newfoundland on April 12th, 1980. During this time in history Canadian’s were watching his run on the news every night. As he got further into his run, more people lined up to cheer him on as he ran through their towns. He captivated a nation and everyone was rooting for him.

Terry ran an average of 42Km (26 miles) per day for 143 days, that’s equivalent to running a marathon a day. Let that sink in for a minute, he ran a marathon a day as an amputee. I work in prosthetic sales; coincidentally I actually work for the company that manufactured his prosthetic components. What I can tell you is this, the prosthetics of 40 years ago were nothing like the prosthetic running blades you see at the Paralympics’ today. He was running on a prosthetic that wasn’t technically designed for running. This young man who had recently battled cancer himself, lost his limb and still he rose to the challenge each day and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Terry running his Marathon of Hope. Photo Credit: Terry Fox Foundation.

Sadly on September 1st 1980, after running 5373KM (3339 miles) he had to stop his run as his primary cancer had spread to his lungs. Terry lost his battle and passed away in June of the following year.

This run means so much to me for a few reasons. One, the legacy of this man is inspiring and it makes me want to run to honour him. Two, I have family and friends who have battled cancer and I want to run to honour them. And finally three, as I stated I work with amputees on a daily basis and I am able to hear their incredible stories of courage and I want to run to honour them.

I truthfully did not train enough for this run and I wasn’t as prepared as I would have liked to be. I haven’t been running in over two years, and I only ran for a few weeks prior to last Sunday. We also had a late night in Toronto with some good friends the night before the run. All these excuses were running through my head as I arrived at the start of the race. I signed in and gave my donation information. I was able to raise $260 thanks to my friends and family for supporting me and this great cause. I was then handed a sticker to wear and I had to write who I was running for. I put down my family and friends names and this really got me thinking, I was going to run the entire 5 kilometers no matter what. My excuses went out the window and I got my mind thinking positive thoughts prior to the race.

I was speaking with a colleague and a good friend of mine a few days before my run. He runs marathons and has some good knowledge on running events. He suggested that I stick to my training times, basically what I run on average per kilometer and if I’m going too fast to slow down and get back to my pace. I think this really helped me to not overdue it in the first couple of kilometers. The one lesson I learned early in the race, was not to train on the flat when the race was going to be all hills. My mistake here, and the hills really did punish me in the first kilometer.

What I took away from these five kilometers was this, running is truly a mind over matter sport. I was in my head the entire morning, leading up to the race I had all the excuses in the world to walk some of the five kilometers. Once I changed my outlook and starting to focus on the positive and who I was running for I was able to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.

I kept repeating this to myself over and over, “If Terry Fox can run a marathon a day for nearly five months with one leg, I can run these five kilometers, keep going!” I also thought about the people fighting for their lives, battling this horrible disease and how much they would love to be running beside me. I thought about how I wanted to make the people who donated to me proud. I thought about my husband and daughter waiting for me at the finish line. I thought about how my daughter is always watching me and how I want to inspire her. I thought about a recent podcast I listened to, Rachel and Dave Hollis in their Rise Together podcast spoke about completing the 29029 climb, a climb that is equivalent to climbing Mount Everest. I thought about how they kept repeating to themselves the words “Better, Stronger” with each step. I thought about what words I wanted to have on repeat in my head, and what kept coming to my mind was something so simple “Keep Going”. With all these thoughts swirling in my head you can see how much running can truly be a mind game.

My prize at the end of my run. Thinking of Mckenna at the end of the race, kept me going.

I had moments in the run where I did choke up with emotion, thinking about Terry Fox a man I never knew and thinking about the people I have known personally who have battled cancer, some that have won the battle and some that have lost it. Now you can see why this race is so close to my heart. I ran the entire 5KM and on top of that I had my personal best race for time. I am proud of myself for staying positive and literally putting one foot in front of the other, just like Terry did.

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