Remembering the Marathon of Hope

September 11, 2013

During his heroic 1980 Marathon of Hope, Terry Fox forged a unique bond with the Canadian public that has endured for decades. The challenges he faced and the affection he inspired are the subject of an exhibition now being developed by the Museum of Civilization. You can be part of the exhibition by donating personal photos you took of his run.

The exhibition will open in April 2015, the 35th anniversary of the start of the Marathon of Hope. That was in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where Terry dipped his prosthetic leg into the Atlantic Ocean, with the dream of doing the same in the Pacific after running across the country to raise money for cancer research. His journey ended near Thunder Bay, Ontario, after 147 days and over 5,000 kilometres when the cancer that claimed his leg returned, and Terry was forced to abandon the project. He died a national hero in June 1981, aged 22.

“One of our goals is to give visitors a clear sense of what it was like for Terry on a daily basis during the Marathon of Hope,” said Sheldon Posen, the exhibition’s curator. “We also want to show the affection, even love, Canadians felt for him and the inspiration he provided to them. The exhibition is about Terry Fox running to the heart of Canada.”

Developed in cooperation with the Terry Fox Center, the exhibition will be the largest of its kind ever organized. It will feature a wide array of artifacts, including the Marathon of Hope camper van, Terry’s clothing and artificial leg, gifts he received along the way and a view of the 65,000 cards and letters that Canadians sent to Terry directly or to his family after his death.

Posen is calling on Canadians to send the Museum digital copies of photographs they themselves took of Terry during the Marathon of Hope, accompanied by a story explaining the circumstances and what the encounter meant to them. Some of the materials will be featured in the exhibition; all will be added to the Museum’s permanent collection.

Along with news reports and Terry’s personal journal, the stories and photos will allow the Museum to trace, on a daily basis, the reality and progress of his run and the trajectory of his fame and impact across the country.

“He was accomplishing this incredible physical feat of running 26 miles a day (42 km), and in the early days, was virtually managing his own campaign,” said Posen. “It was a monumental task.” On most days he was in pain; but many times, said Posen, “he was on top of the world.”

Heroes are usually people who achieve remarkable goals, said Posen. “Terry Fox was different: he achieved his goal not by achieving it himself, but by inspiring Canadians to make it their goal. Canadians responded to the nobility of Terry’s purpose, his selfless striving, and they achieved his goal with and for him when he could not.”

The Museum will present the main exhibition in one of its large galleries. A smaller exhibition of images, text panels and audio-visual materials will tour the country.

Digital copies of your original images can be sent through a special web page: