CM . . .
. Volume X Number 1 . . . . September 5, 2003
The Marathon of Hope took place over a few months in 1980, but the legacy that Terry Fox left behind has lived on far longer than its originator would ever have imagined. Through his selfless act of running across Canada after an amputation due to cancer, Fox inspired millions of Canadians and others around the world to donate money for cancer research and to overcome difficulties.
Terry Fox died in 1981 after the cancer spread to his lungs. Until now, there has only been one biography about him authorized by the Fox family. Now, with the family's approval, Eric Walters, a noted author of teen novels, has produced a fictional account of the famous run.
Run is a book about facing difficulties and making the best out of life. Walters tells the story through the words of 14-year-old Winston MacDonald of Toronto, who is unhappy with everything in life. His parents have divorced and continually snipe at each other. Winston's father (also Winston, but called Mac) has always paid more attention to his journalistic career than his family. Winston’s mother is at her wits' end when Winston is suspended from school and runs away yet again for no apparent reason. She insists that Mac take him for “a few days” even though Mac is being sent to Nova Scotia to cover a human interest story about a young cancer survivor who is running across Canada to raise money for research.
The story follows several journeys: Winston's struggle to create a relationship with a man who doesn't know how to be a father; Mac's realization that his big ego gets in the way of his relationships; Terry's one step at a time run across a vast country; and the journey of friendship that he and Doug Allard are taking together. Winston is defiant, snotty and rude to people, especially his father. His journey back to his family and school comes through his conversations with Terry and Doug, who are sure of their mission and are patient with each other, even when they are fighting. Over time, their positive attitude and the fact that they put their words into action have an effect on Winston. He develops great respect for Doug who has put his life on hold for a year to help his friend accomplish his dream, and for Terry, who never makes an issue of himself or his physical pain, but always talks about how he can help others. Winston finds the strength to develop a dialogue with Mac, who has also been affected by Terry's accomplishments. Winston finally promises Terry that he will go back to school and stick with it, dealing with the challenges that life offers.
The catalyst for the story, of course, is Terry's run, which started out as a small curiosity and turned into a national phenomenon. His steadfast run/hop, punctuated by pain ("Only when I run on it.") amazed people. His short, earnest speeches caused people to dig into their pockets. The climax occurs when Mac decides to write about the conflicts between Doug and Terry. Winston insists that the real issue is Terry's run, and that Mac's story will detract from that and make Canadians stop donating for a good cause. He is set to run away again, but he returns after Mac relents and misses his deadline for the first time since he began working in newspapers.
Walters shows the reader that all relationships have flaws. Terry and Doug admit up front that they can get on each other's nerves, but their differences are never so great that they get in the way of the commitment they have made. Terry's determination to make a difference in any way he can is not fiction. Incorporating his exemplary act into a novel is a useful contribution to YA literature. Winston's real life problems and Terry's real life run can lead to useful introspection for teenage readers and can be a catalyst for productive discussion in an individual or classroom setting. Appendices provide information about real Terry and the Marathon of Hope.
Following the selfless example of Terry Fox, all royalties from the sale of this book as well as a contribution from the publisher are being directed to the Terry Fox Foundation.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.