The Marathon of Hope
“I believe in miracles. I have to”
Last Saturday 350 dedicated individuals gathered at the American International School Dhaka for the 25th anniversary of the Terry Fox run. No race has ever been so aptly named as The Marathon of Hope. It was coined by Canadian Terry Fox a quarter of a century ago, when he first set out to raise money for cancer research.
Terry Fox was an amazing individual, at the age of 18 he was diagnosed with bone cancer and had his right leg amputated 15 cm above the knee. In hospital he was so moved by the pain and suffering of the cancer patients that he decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. The Marathon of Hope as he named it would be more than 8500 km taking him from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. From the 12th of April 1980 till September 1st of the same year he ran the length of a marathon every day (42 km) and had walked 5373 km in 143 days. He only stopped after his cancer had spread to his lungs and he could not go any further, in the process he raised more than 4 million dollars by himself. He died on the 28th of June the following year, and since then he has been the inspiration behind numerous marathons held around the world to raise money for cancer research.
The atmosphere around the school was cheerful and relaxed; it was filled with children of different ages and sprinkled with some adults for good measure. It was refreshing to see children so actively taking part in such a noble cause. They were sitting in front of a TV screen watching a documentary on the race and some of them were even at the Gene Cure desk, finding out how they use the money raised is being used in Bangladesh. The scene was set for yet another generation to be educated in what Terry Fox and his marathon stood for.
The event started with a short speech by the Canadian High Commissioner, Barbara Richardson. She spoke emotionally about what Terry Fox and his legacy meant to Canada and the world. The speech was part fact and part pep talk; she addressed the assorted children and adults alike, informing them of the significance of Terry Fox and what it meant to her personally. The impatient children could not wait to start the race and there was a soft hum from the crowd as people started to talk. It all went silent when right at the end of her speech; she asked “What did Terry Fox actually contribute?” It was a moment of clarity, when everyone stopped to actually contemplate what the young man achieved. Barbara Richardson may have answered the question herself but for most of the people there, they were looking for their own answers. With that question still in mind the marathon started, the children with carefree abandon ran without looking back. Most of the older people kept a steady pace, and they still seemed to be contemplating the meaning behind it all. The laughter of the children, coupled with the thoughtful faces of the adults was the perfect mix of innocence and experience.
This year the event raised Tk 420,000 and all the proceeds were donated to Gene Cure Health Care Ltd, they were the Bangladeshi foundation that received the donation from Barbara Richardson. Every year a local firm in the country that arranges the marathon is given all the money raised by the event to research cancer. Through this process more than 400 million dollars has been raised for cancer research in the name of Terry Fox. Last year more than 2.5 million Cubans at 4881 sites took part in the Terry Fox Run. If staggering numbers like that keep participating and donating to the event, then soon Terry's dream may come true. All he initially wanted was one dollar for every Canadian, with more than 400 million raised now, he may have to set his sights higher, maybe a dollar for everyone on the planet.
This race has no prizes for first second and third, everyone is winner. For the children in Dhaka it must have been an experience of a lifetime, if only one child thought about the cause that he or she was running for then I would say that the marathon achieved its goal. Like Terry Fox taught us, it only takes one person to try and change the world.
(R) thedailystar.net 2006