PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. For the people closest to Terry Fox, yesterday's cross-Canada celebration of the 25th anniversary of his Marathon of Hope was both joyful and bittersweet.
His mother, Betty, was naturally delighted that a record crowd of just under 13,000 turned up for the annual home town run in Port Coquitlam, where the Canadian icon spent his formative years.
"I think that when you look at all those people out there, you can't feel anything but pride," she said.
"It takes away the sadness that crops up every once in a while," she added.
A lot has been accomplished since her son's death in 1981, but Ms. Fox also realizes that advances in bone-cancer research would have allowed him to survive if he were diagnosed with bone cancer today.
"Cancer [care] has come a long way since then," she said.
"He wouldn't even have had to have his leg amputated."
After unveiling a life-sized statue of the one-legged runner in Victoria on Friday, Ms. Fox and her husband, Rolly, were on hand for the run that was expected to add $200,000 to the $360-million that has already been raised in their son's name.
They were joined in Port Coquitlam by Prime Minister Paul Martin, his wife, Sheila, and British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell.
The event was one of a series of 10-kilometre runs in communities across Canada, which were held to commemorate a feat that inspired not only a nation, but athletes and cancer patients around the world.
"He was a Canadian who was truly worthy of being called a hero," said Mr. Martin, who showed up wearing blue replica Terry Fox Adidas running shoes.
In spite of the bone cancer that led to the amputation from above his knee, Mr. Fox ran 5,373 kilometres in 143 days before he was forced to stop in Sept. 1, 1980. He died in June of 1981.
Yesterday, his parents said that the idea for the cross-Canada run may have come from his Port Coquitlam high-school coach Bruce Moore.
The night before the teenager was scheduled to have his leg amputated in 1977, Mr. Moore handed him a magazine article about an amputee who ran the New York marathon.
Ms. Fox said it came as "quite a shock" when her son told her that he was going to run across Canada.
"I said, 'Why don't you just run across B.C.?' " she recalled.
His reply was that it wasn't just people in British Columbia who were getting cancer.
"We knew we couldn't stop him, so we just got in there and tried to give him all the support that we could."
After playing the master of ceremonies role at yesterday's Port Coquitlam run, Mr. Moore said he remembers the young Terry Fox as a determined athlete who played soccer, rugby and basketball during his high-school years.
But Mr. Moore said there was nothing in the young athlete's demeanour that pointed to the run he would later attempt after being diagnosed with cancer in the knee.
"You didn't see that," he said.
"He was just someone who stepped forward."
Yesterday, Mr. Moore said he drew inspiration from his former student when he too was diagnosed with cancer in 1999.
"It was then that Terry became my role model for getting through cancer," he said.