Carrying the torch for the Marathon of Hope

Time is nearing to celebrate one of Canada's biggest heroes

Brent and Lisa Fitzgerald

Brent and Lisa Fitzgerald

It’s almost time for Penticton to celebrate one of Canada’s biggest heroes.

The Terry Fox Run is happening on Sept. 20 and kicks off right out front of the SS Sicamous.

The event takes place in 800 communities across the country, and Penticton co-ordinator Lisa Fitzgerald explained why Okanagan landscapes offers local participants an impressive route.

“For the runners in Penticton, we get to run along the Channel Parkway and I don’t think most run locations have that beautiful of a pathway for them to be able to run along — plus we don’t have to worry about traffic or any road closures.”

Due to ongoing bridge construction however, restrictions have been placed on certain modes of transportation like rollerblades and skateboards because of  gravel.

Also because of construction, the regular 10 kilometre route won’t be open this year; runners will have the option of two and five kilometre tracks.

Along with her husband Brent, the Fitzgerald’s began organizing the local event two years ago. She remembers following the Marathon of Hope while Terry was still running.

“It’s always been something that was part of our family. He was so young. For someone one his age back in that era to be taking on something like this was unheard of,” Lisa said.

The event continues to grow around the world each year, and became an annual occurrence in 1981, following Terry Fox’s historical Marathon of Hope the year prior from Newfoundland to Victoria. On just one leg, having lost the other to cancer, he ran the distance of a marathon, 42 kilometres, everyday for 143 days. He covered 5,373 kilometres and was just outside of Thunder Bay, Ont., when his cancer returned and forced him into treatment. He was able to see his goal of $1 million reach more than $24 million before his death in 1981.

The Terry Fox Foundation said it now supports nearly $20 million each year in funding research.

Additionally, the event takes place at schools across Canada.

“Kids know when it’s Terry Fox Day, they get to pledge money and go outside in the field to run around,” she said. “It’s interesting because as they grow up, you can see that kids actually put the connection together, if they do end up losing a grandparent or a loved one, and really see the impact that they’re making.”

Since Fox himself wasn’t competing against other people, the events have never taken on a competitive nature.

“It takes a bit of pressure out of a race for some people who may find that intimidating, so it’s very inclusive. And you don’t have to pay a massive registration fee – just whatever donation you feel like you can give that day and we’re happy to accept that.”

Registration for the event opens at 8:30 a.m. and running starts at 10. No preregistration is required.