Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2022/ Is Terry Fox Dying?

Is Terry Fox Dying?

After a two year hiatus, I decided to run a Terry Fox Run again. I opted to go to the Wilmot event at New Hamburg. The Kitchener run was too close and too embarrassing (running through Victoria Park?) ad the Waterloo event was too depressing (Looping 2.5km four times? Thanks but no thanks). Elmira did not hold an in-person event this year.

I guess choosing to participate means the pandemic is over. Everybody else seems to think so: at the run site there was exactly one other person wearing a mask, and that person was pushing a wheelchair (and so may have been a support worker obligated to mask up at work). Also there was public singing and cheering indoors, which gave me the heebie-jeebies; I stood outside near the entrance of the building and hoped there was not a lot of blowback. I wore an ineffective N95 mask when other people were near, but got more flack for looking homeless than for wearing a mask. (One fellow at the run site asked whether I was collecting bottles. I told him I was not, although I understand why he jumped to that conclusion.)

The run itself was fine. It was only 8.4km (I would have preferred a 10km route), and it was mostly through the subdivisions of New Hamburg, but the organizers provided helpful paper maps and I did not get lost. When I started I thought for sure my knees were not going to let me finish, but I made it through the route without stopping, which was the goal. I did not even get that winded, which was probably not surprising given that I am a worthless unemployed burden on society who has been taking long bike rides all year instead of contributing to society.

There were actually two routes offered: the "long" one was 8.4km and the "short" one was 4.1km. Out of the 30-50 people who participated, I think only 4 people (including me) attempted the long route. One person walked the route, two other fit runner-types ran it, and I walk-shuffled. It seemed that most of the other participants (often families with kids) just walked the shorter route. That's fine, I guess, but it makes me think the spirit of Terry Fox is fading. As I wrote in 2010, I feel the mythology of Terry Fox is about challenging onesself, but I think that message is mostly gone. No doubt if I had run the Waterloo route there would have been lots of fit young gym-bunnies from the universities, but my guess is that 10km would not have been much of a challenge for those bunnies either.

It is clear that the generational torch is passing. Terry Fox's brother Fred did a tour earlier this year, so people are still getting second-hand information about Terry from living relatives, but those people are getting old. The generation that was alive and inspired by the run in the 1980s is aging out; how much longer will they enthusiastically organize runs? The walkers with children are mostly too young to have lived through the Terry Fox run themselves; what are they getting from the experience? Maybe they were inspired from running as kids in school. Maybe they have been touched by cancer, and that is enough motivation to run independent of the Terry Fox mythology. Or maybe Terry Fox remains a powerful Canadian symbol, and the youngsters (even the youngsters walking with their parents today) will continue to be inspired by the story. It is difficult for me to say.

This year's Terry Fox Run seemed subdued compared to previous years, but that may just be my perception, or that may just be an effect of the pandemic. I know that the Wilmot branch of the Terry Fox Run is enthusiastically organized by the Gordjiks, but even they did not seem to have many volunteers this year. I wonder how other runs compared?

An unexpected perk of attending the Wilmot Terry Fox Run was free admission to the New Hamburg Fall Fair. I wandered through the grounds after I had completed my run. I guess I did not wander enough, because there was not much to see. There were a number of disappointed people staffing untrafficked craft booths, there was a heinously expensive midway ($5 for a kiddie ride? $10 for an adult one? Hello inflation!) and similarly expensive concession stands ($7 for a small serving of fries?) and there was a demolition derby, which was the main event. I suppose watching cars driving dangerously and crashing into each other was entertaining enough, but I can see that anytime I want just by walking down Ottawa Street. (That was half a joke.) I was looking for political candidates but I did not see any. There was another indoor area with displays, and maybe the candidates were there, but even though the pandemic is over I am not comfortable in indoor spaces. I also did not see any farm animals, which surprised me. I thought this was what agricultural fairs were all about? Not anymore, I guess.

I will say this much for Wilmot: it is politically engaged. Shuffle-walking through the subdivisions of New Hamburg, I saw way more election signs there than anywhere else in the Region. The race for mayor looks like it will be contentious, as do the two seats in Ward 4 for Township council. I even saw two signs for Karen Redman!

(Later that afternoon I went to Wellesley, and there was nary a sign there. So it is not the case that every township is politically active. Then again, three of five seats on Wellesley council are acclaimed, and they are not even doing in-person voting this election.)

When I started composing this entry I was feeling fairly pessimistic about the future of the Terry Fox Run. Now I am not sure what to think. My tentative guess is that Terry Fox might matter less as the years proceed, and the stories of those who recovered from cancer thanks to research dollars will matter more. That would not be a terrible outcome. Unfortunately there is plenty of cancer around, so lots of people will have a personal connection to it.

If the pandemic is still over next year then maybe we will get a clearer sense of whether the run is still healthy or not, and what it will look like as the generation most inspired by Terry Fox ages into irrelevance.