Marathon of Hope's legacy continues with Terry Fox Run

Participants in the 40th annual Terry Fox Run can go at their own pace and at their own place.

Chatham Terry Fox Run organizer Pat McMahon, left, general manager of corporate services and chief human resources officer Cathy Hoffman, chief administrative officer Don Shropshire and Mayor Darrin Canniff raise the Terry Fox Run flag at the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre in Chatham, Ont., on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. Contributed Photo

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Participants in the 40th annual Terry Fox Run can go at their own pace and at their own place.

The fundraiser for cancer research will be held virtually Sunday because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so people can run, walk, cycle, paddle or skate anywhere they want.

“We’re trying to get the idea across you can participate from wherever you are in Chatham-Kent: your neighbourhood, backyard, around the block,” said Pat McMahon, organizer of the Chatham run. “The virtual part of it is to get everybody to register online at because there won’t be a (physical) site on the run day for everyone to sign up.”

The nationwide event celebrates Fox, the one-legged runner whose Marathon of Hope fundraiser ended on Sept. 1, 1980, after he’d covered 5,373 kilometres in 143 days. The 22-year-old died of cancer less than a year later.

The Terry Fox Run flag was raised Monday at the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre.

Runs are also being held locally in Dresden, Wallaceburg, Blenheim, Tilbury and Ridgetown.

A few people in the Dresden event plan to walk 20 kilometres to Wallaceburg. Others registered in Dresden are taking part in Sauble Beach, Toronto and even Brisbane, Australia.

When they signed up, they could choose any city or town hosting a run.

“I’ve just been encouraging people to choose a run site that’s close to their heart or close to their home,” said Cindy Brewer, co-organizer of the Dresden run. “The money’s all going to cancer research, so it’s all good.”

Runners raise money by being sponsored.

Last year, Dresden brought in $38,000. The town has ranked in the top two per capita in Ontario for five straight years, including three in a row at No. 1 from 2015 to 2017.

“Dresden really gets behind this,” Brewer said. “They really embrace the run.”

That’s the case again this year. Seventy-three people were already registered by Monday evening, more than in previous years at this stage.

In Chatham, the numbers are down a bit.

“There’s always a lot of people that sign up on the day because they often don’t know what their schedule’s going to be like and sometimes it’s weather-dependent,” McMahon said. “So it’s a little slower than other years, but it’s a very difficult year for everyone.”

He’s been reminding people registration this year is done only online.

“This is a transition year and it probably is something that will be encouraged going forward,” he said. “I don’t see the COVID-19 impact going away after 2020, but for sure cancer research can’t wait for the COVID-19 to be over.

“We have to keep moving forward. We’ve made such great strides on cancer survival rates and decrease in the mortality rate.”

He isn’t setting any fundraising targets.

“We realize it’s tough economic times for everyone across the world in 2020,” McMahon said. “I don’t think the focus is to reach a financial target, although the more we can raise for cancer research, the better obviously.”

There’s no set distance for the run this year. People can go as far as they’d like.

“It is an opportunity for families and friends to get together, even if it’s virtually, for an event and enjoy the great outdoors we have in Chatham-Kent,” McMahon said.

The Dresden run is marking its 25th anniversary. Many celebratory plans were cancelled because of the pandemic, so organizers are posting testimonial videos from local runners on Facebook instead.

“We’ve just been having a great time with the social media,” Brewer said.