This Sunday is the annual Terry Fox run – except, shockingly, a number of communities this year won’t be holding one.
Too much competition, run organizers say.
Several municipalities in Nova Scotia and Ontario are foregoing the run, an annual event since 1981 and first held just two months after Fox’s death from cancer.
Sherri Malov, the woman who’s organized Truro’s Terry Fox run for five years, told CBC News that she was unable to find volunteers to assist with the event. More troubling still is the run faced steep competition: three other runs were scheduled on the same day last year.
It’s appalling that the Fox event is running into trouble. Fox was the original crusader against cancer, out on the roads raising money and awareness with his cross-Canada Marathon of Hope long before other charities recognized the power of running.
In 1980, Fox set out from St. John’s, Newfoundland, with the goal of raising one dollar from each of Canada’s 24-million citizens. Bobbing from side to side on his artificial leg through often horrendous weather, Fox transfixed Canadians as he ground out the miles.
By the time the spread of his cancer forced him off the roads, Fox had become a national hero, running for 143 days, covering 5,373 kilometres.
According to the Wikipedia entry on Fox, the annual Terry Fox Run has since become the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research, with over $500-million raised.
Since Fox first set out in 1980, our attitude towards running has dramatically changed. As a recreational activity, running has boomed and with it the rise in events catering to runners. On any given weekend in, say, Nova Scotia, runners can choose from two, three, even four races.
Factor in triathlons and other events, and suddenly event organizers are facing a lot of pressure.
How sustainable this is, time will tell. But it’s unlikely that every race will be able to find the volunteers it needs or sustain the critical mass of runners to survive.
I would suggest the first races to vanish off the schedule will be those that smaller charities naively organize in the belief that they will raise a lot of money. Often put together by volunteer race directors with little experience, these races soon discover that hosting a race is much more involved than inviting people on Facebook and letting them run a course.
Poor planning, little promotion and weak execution has led some of these races to attract fewer than 20 runners.
At the same time, the entrance of large franchises into the market, such as Spartan Races, Muddy Buddys and so forth have grabbed a massive amount of the market share. People, of course, only have so much money and time to spend on races, which means some are bound to suffer.
Along with that comes the huge rise in charity runners. All of them advocate for admirable causes, but also compete for the same fixed pot of money. It’s bound to lead to donor fatigue. And where the Terry Fox Run only rolls around for one day once a year, it’s not as continually pushed as some of the others.
For the price of one dollar – although you can contribute more if you wish – the Terry Fox Run is a bargain. More than that, it’s a tradition and a tribute to a Canadian icon. It’s a chance for you to run with your neighbors, free of race bibs and with no tangible rewards such as T-shirts and medals – except for the feeling that comes with knowing you’ve done a good thing.
We can let the Terry Fox Runs fade away, but everyone would be that much poorer.
Keep the legacy alive.
Show up. Lend a hand. Run. Give. These are all things that we are good at as Canadians.