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On Terry Fox and Canadian Courage...a contribution from Paul.

posted by Susan Dominikovich on , , , ,

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"It occurs very rarely in the life of a nation that the courageous spirit of one person unites all people in the celebration of his life and in the mourning of his death ... We do not think of him as one who was defeated by misfortune but as one who inspired us with the example of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity."   Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau on the death of Terry Fox

Paul's Cross Country season came to a close last night as he celebrated with his team at the annual Marbles dinner.  Paul realised it was the 10th anniversary of this tradition and reminisced with me on how the dinner got started.  One of his first runners, when the team was only a handful, suggested a celebration-of-the-season dinner but it took a couple more years for it to get off the ground.  As the team grew and a culture took form, the dinner became a celebration of the year past as well as a presentation of trophies hard-fought for and well-earned.

Every year at this dinner, Paul presents a speech to his team.  He wraps up the year's achievements and fondly retells the in-jokes.  But in his speech he also hopes to inspire the boys, not only as runners but as maturing young men.

Paul read his speech to me last night and I begged and pleaded with him to let me share some of it (in-jokes aside).  I think it's important because it demonstrates what running and Cross Country is all about to Paul.  And it also says a lot about what it means to be Canadian as it truly highlights a thing I call Canadian courage.  We are born with fire and ice in our blood.  It takes a lot to knock us down.  And even then, our inclination is to get right back up, no matter what adversity it is we face.  I feel that my friends and family in B.C. who are fighting for the right to good public education against the Liberal government, might need to be reminded of that Canadian spirit which urges them to keep going, to keep pressing on despite adversity.  

In sharing this, Paul has asked me to acknowledge and thank two of his friends in Canada, Ray and Doug.  They both have taken the time to get to know and understand him as well as his passion for running and young people. They both have loved him for it.  And thank you Ray and Anne, for taking us to Mile 0 on that cold December day.  For the memories and the walks and the seals and the fish and chips.

Paul's speech:

 ...Tonight I want to talk about an observation I’ve made which has interested me.  I have enjoyed seeing the number of boys who have updated their [facebook] profile pictures to ones of them running.  Now our identity that we choose to share with the world is personal and it should have some meaning.  Many of you here tonight and our old boys as well have profile pictures of you in full stride in some recent race.  I wonder if others have noticed that too?  Our own picture may just be a random choice or it might contain meaning and give some insight into our character.  Mine does.

That should have you thinking.  What is that little thumbnail beside Mr D’s posts?  No one has asked.  Well tonight I will tell you.  It is a picture of me standing beside the statue of Terry Fox at Mile Zero in Victoria, Canada.  When I set up my page (still with zero friends I might add) I took less than 10 seconds to decide upon my profile picture and I was delighted I had taken it just a few months before because Terry Fox is a hero of mine.

Now I won't put you on the spot or shame your ignorance for not knowing but Terry Fox is perhaps the most famous Canadian ever and it was his distance running that inspired a Nation in 1980.  Terry ran cross country at High School, but was a passionate basket baller of some renown.  In 1977 at the age of just 18, Fox was diagnosed with cancer in his right knee and had his lower leg amputated.  Learning to walk again with an artificial limb he was inspired himself to try to complete a marathon.  Fox had to develop a unique running style which required him to complete a small hop on his good leg to enable the springs in his artificial leg to reset. After 14 months of training Fox completed his marathon in last place but it was then he revealed his audacious plan to run from one side of Canada to the other to raise money for cancer research. 

No able-bodied person had ever completed the 8500km journey, but Terry Fox set off on his Marathon of Hope in April 1980 from the eastern-most point of Canada running a marathon every single day.  Terry never completed the journey, but ran a staggering 5373km over 143 days before the cancer spread to his lungs and he was forced to stop.  Fox was hospitalised and treated with more chemotherapy, but died a few months later.  Terry Fox raised tens of millions of dollars for cancer research and every Canadian kid and millions worldwide are still running and raising money for the cause that took the young life of Terry Fox.

When Terry Fox died, the nation stopped.  Flags were lowered and Prime Minister Trudeau said "It occurs very rarely in the life of a nation that the courageous spirit of one person unites all people in the celebration of his life and in the mourning of his death ... We do not think of him as one who was defeated by misfortune but as one who inspired us with the example of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity."  This young athlete touched the lives of millions and used his running, slow and painful though it was, to help make the world a better place. 

So next time you see a post by Mr D on Facebook, have a look at my profile picture and think a moment over the statue I am leaning against on a cold winter's day in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria last Christmas.  Remember Terry Fox the athlete who lost his leg to cancer yet attempted the impossible with courage, determination and a level of commitment that inspired a nation and still inspires today.  Zoom in if you can on the inscription and quote that reads “Somewhere the hurting must end” and ponder its meaning for Terry and many others less fortunate than ourselves.
And then think about your own abilities and sporting prowess and ask why do we run or why do we learn or even why do we hope or why do we dream?  Surely it is because we can.  For most of us we will never know the suffering of cancer.  We will never know the pain of amputation and tragedy like that of Terry Fox.  So we run because we can.  Fleet footed and fast.  And the pain we suffer is temporary and is soon replaced with exhilaration.  The pain ends quickly for us but for many it is constant.  To be free of injury and running fast is one of the greatest feelings we can have and not one to take lightly or abuse.
But as we win a race or claim a medal or even just run a personal best or get selected for a team may we never forget the privilege it is to take part in the purest of all sports and to step outside our own selfish desires for a moment and ponder our role in life and the contributions that we can make in this world of ours.  Let us use our considerable giftings and abilities to push on to greater achievements, not just because we can.  But because we should.  And in doing so, perhaps we will inspire others to have the courage to fight their own battles whatever they may happen to be.

Paul Dominikovich
24 June, 2014

Have courage dear friends.  Canadian courage.  Let your spirit triumph over this present adversity.

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