In May of 1982, local runner Ed Rice organized a road race he figured would be a one-time tribute to Canadian running hero Terry Fox.
It didn’t quite turn out that way. The first year, 424 participants covered the out-and-back course. The next year, Rice organized another race, and 429 runners showed up. And every year since then – except for a one-year hiatus in 1993 – the Terry Fox Run has proven to be one of Eastern Maine’s biggest road races.
This year’s 20th edition of the Terry Fox Run is set for Sunday at 11:30 a.m. The race starts and ends at the Best Western White House Inn in Hampden, which is off Exit 44 of Interstate 95. Registration tables open at 9:30 a.m.
The entry fee is $10, but no family will pay more than $35, no matter how many children are entered.
Rice said he remembers meeting with the race’s sponsor the first year and making assurances that they weren’t entering into a long-term deal.
“I said, ‘People aren’t gonna run for a Canadian kid,'” Rice said. “‘I’m not sure this is even gonna work the first time.'”
Now, 20 years later, Rice chuckles at the memory … and at all the hard work that has followed.
“I didn’t envision it as any more than a one-year tribute and done,” he said. “It’s been an interesting kind of headache. It’s an oxymoron: an enjoyable headache. It’s something I’m passionate about and believe in from my head to my toes.”
Over the years, the race has been held on four different courses and has attracted as many as 623 runners, joggers and walkers (in 1986).
Rice said the 1986 record, which was set during the middle of the “running boom” and benefited from the appearance of Bill Rodgers, a world-class runner, is virtually out of reach.
But he would like to set a record for most runners on the current course.
“Our record for Best Western is 412,” Rice said. “A fun thing, since our very first Terry Fox Run had 424, [would be to draw] 425. That would be a great figure if we could pull it off.”
The race will benefit the Breast Cancer Research Trial, (also known as the Study of Tamoxifen and Ralaxifene) of Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
Race organizers presented a check for $10,000 to the STAR project last year, and the race has raised a $62,770 for local cancer research since 1982.
Rice said the age range for the race is always interesting. Among this year’s pre-registered runners are some 1- and 2-year-olds, as well as an 85-year-old runner and an 86-year-old walker. Rice points out that the youngest participants are generally wheeled by their parents, but the youngest person to complete the course under his or her own power does get a prize.
As of Thursday, Rice said more than 200 runners and walkers had registered for the race.
Among those: 29 members of the University of Maine hockey team, the girls varsity soccer team at Hampden Academy, and the two winners of the 1982 Fox Run (Henri Bouchard and Robin Emery).
Last year’s winners were Jerry Johnson and Angela Ewings. Ben Ray (15 minutes, 44 seconds) and Jo-Anne Nealey (18:07) hold the records on the present 3.1-mile course.
Finishing kick: In addition to the Terry Fox Run, racers have a southern Maine option this weekend. The Boys & Girls Club of Lewiston-Auburn will hold the Lewiston-Auburn 5K Bridge Run on Sunday. The race begins at 8 a.m. in Auburn.
Also, runners may want to circle next Saturday’s 6th Annual Komen Maine Race for the Cure, which will begin on the Bangor Waterfront. Many of the race’s participants will be walkers, but it has evolved into the area’s biggest road race in a short time. To register, check out www.komenmaine.com.