Montreal marathoner, award-winning boxer and retired school caretaker Eddy Nolan is still on a runner’s high after taking a road trip to Thunder Bay to honour his lifetime hero, Terry Fox.
He retraced the Marathon of Hope’s last 5 kilometres before it was cut short at the 3,339 milepost on Sept. 1, 1980.
“Making it to the same mile mark, staying in the same room at the Coach House Hotel, it was all magical,” Nolan said from his home in Ile-Bizard, Que.
Nolan won five Golden Glove boxing awards and was training for his first Montreal marathon four decades ago when he saw Terry Fox on television for the first time, crossing the Jacques-Cartier bridge.
“I was completely captivated — he was the real deal,” said Nolan, who was the same age as Fox at the time, 22 years old. “I guess what got me most is that he was doing it for children in the cancer ward.”
Nolan, now 63, has completed 65 marathons in his lifetime, coordinated dozens of Terry Fox school runs and raised close to half a million dollars in the last 40 years.
He’s also been hit hard by the same disease he’s been fighting for. Two of his sisters died of cancer in 1993 and 1994, and he was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat and neck cancer nine years ago.
He’s in remission but his illness and knee injuries have slowed him down. He can only run a few kilometres at a time, as his breathing and nerve damage from the radiation make it difficult.
“I’m lucky to be here,” said Nolan. “I’m living proof that these research dollars are working.”
After making his way to Newfoundland in 2014 to retrace Terry Fox’s first marathon in St John’s, and visiting his hero’s gravesite in British Colombia a couple of years later, Nolan felt he wasn’t finished paying tribute to Terry.
“I said: ‘There’s one more stop I’d like to make, I’d like to make it to Thunder Bay’,” Nolan said.
His life-partner, his younger brother and an old friend who had once run with Terry Fox joined him.
Despite feeling under the weather on Sept. 1, Nolan made it to the milepost that marked the end of Terry’s journey near Thunder Bay. He and his brother swam in Jackfish Lake across from the hotel, where Terry took his iconic swim with a young cancer survivor.
“It was very emotional to be there with my kid brother,” said Nolan “I mean, it was like we were kids again.”
“It was spectacular,” said Maria Sylvaggio, Eddy’s partner. “A dream come true for me as well because I’ve been following this passion for 25 years with Eddy.”
As he gears up for his official 40th Terry Fox Run on Sept. 20, Nolan said he may have lost his speed but he will never stop fighting for the cause, as long as he’s alive.
“I’m proud to have been associated with the (Terry Fox) foundation and to try to do my part,” he told Global News. “I’ve lost two sisters to cancer, I’m a cancer survivor myself and I know what it’s like — I know how important these dollars are.”