ABU DHABI // It is a long way from Canada to the Corniche, but tomorrow morning the two places will be connected by the story of one young man whose epic journey almost 30 years ago spread his name across a nation and beyond. The 14th Abu Dhabi Terry Fox Run is expected to draw more than 12,000 people to an 8.5km route around the capital, one that can be run, walked, biked or rollerbladed.
Organisers are hoping to raise Dh1 million (US$272,000) to support cancer research projects in the UAE, despite the economic downturn. Last year's run brought in Dh775,000 through donations and T-shirt sales. The UAE has been a big supporter of the cause. In 2007, the Emirates was the top fundraiser out of 29 countries outside Canada to hold the runs, bringing in more than $411,000. Dubai and Abu Dhabi also had the most participants by run site, 12,000 and 10,000 respectively.
"It's been coming up and up and up," said Farid Dabaghi, the chairman of the Abu Dhabi run. "The thing that helps is they know the money they raise, every penny stays for cancer research in the UAE." The Abu Dhabi event draws more than just Canadian expatriates, says Mr Dabaghi. Lining the route for the first time this year will be 50 Emiratis handing out water and giving directions, volunteering as part of the Takatof programme.
The group also pitched in at the Al Ain run last Saturday, after it was revived for the first time since 2000. More than 300 participants raised Dh7,000, said Don Tonner, the event's chairman. The run is also held annually in Dubai, although this year's event has been postponed. Organisers did not respond to requests for a possible date. An iconic figure in Canada, Terry Fox developed a rare form of bone cancer as a teenager and ended up having most of his right leg amputated. Three years later, at 21, he set out to run across Canada to raise funds for cancer research. The resulting journey was called the Marathon of Hope, as Fox ran about 42km each day. Gradually the nation's attention became focused on the journey of an unassuming man who asked everyone to donate $1.
Fox had to call off the run five months later when the cancer spread to his lungs. He died in June 1981; that September, the first runs in his honour launched a national movement, one that has raised more than $400m Canadian dollars (Dh1.2 billion) for cancer research worldwide. Breeda McClew, a Canadian who has been with the Terry Fox Foundation for 24 years, travelled to Dubai with Fox's mother Betty for the first event in 1993. Organisers, who had not known what to expect, were surprised when 5,000 people turned out.
"I think more than anything else it is the story of Terry Fox that is so courageous and touching," said Mrs McClew. "One ordinary person having done such an extraordinary thing, with the Marathon of Hope, and asking nothing for himself." Registration for the Abu Dhabi Terry Fox Run starts at 8am in the Sheraton Hotel and Resort; the run begins at 10am. For more information, visit www.terryfoxrun.org.