Hidden Gems

Meeting an Ontario “Giant”

Terry Fox MonumentGuest Blog by travel writer and blogger Jim Byers

I felt ashamed.

I wasn’t living in Canada the day Terry Fox ended his fateful run, having not yet moved to Toronto from northern California.

But I was dating the Canadian woman I would marry on the first of September in 1980, the day Fox had to call it quits outside this northern Ontario city due to his spreading cancer. I think most Americans by then had begun to hear about this British Columbia hero who was running across Canada on one leg to raise money for cancer research.

I’ve lived in Toronto since 1981, the year Fox died, and I’ve learned a bit about this dogged, determined young man and his quest to cross this magnificent country one marathon at a time. But I didn’t know much about just where he finished his quest or exactly what happened until I made the trip west from Thunder Bay on the Trans Canada Highway in mid-August, my first trip to Ontario’s north.

There’s a large sign on the highway pointing the way to the Terry Fox Monument. I pulled off and drove up a winding hill and into the parking lot on a quiet Monday morning.

“Oh, great,” I thought. “It’s raining. How am I going to get a good picture?”

I had joked with a woman the day before at the lovely McVicar Manor B and B in Thunder Bay that I wanted to get a photo of Fox with the Sleeping Giant rock formation in the background.

“You know,” I said. “Two giants in one shot.”

She smiled and said she liked the idea. So did I. But I wasn’t going to get much of a shot of either icon on this day.

Hoping for a break in the weather, I dashed from my car into the visitors centre and looked around at the tourist brochures, then settled in and watched 10 or 15 minutes of highlights of Fox’s brilliant run.

And I felt thoroughly ashamed. Here I was, moaning to myself that I wouldn’t get a good photo. And there was Fox on the screen, with those famous curls and those short gym shorts and that white t-shirt, battling horrific weather as he ran across some of the toughest terrain in Canada on one leg; up hills and down hills and alongside roaring trucks on the highway, keeping that lopsided rhythm of his, a fierce determination on his face.

Talk about putting someone in his place. I walked outside in the rain and stood for a minute, protecting my camera from the weather but trying to think how I’d do in rain like this running on two legs and without a deadly cancer rattling through my bones.

I snapped a lousy photo, put my camera away and gave Fox a silent salute before retreating to my dry car and heading east on the highway, back in the direction from which Terry Fox had ran.

This year’s Terry Fox Run is September 15th, 2013. To plan your own visit to the Terry Fox Monument click here.

Thundery Bay, Ontario

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