GARLANDS CROSSING, N.S. - She’s only missed one.
But every year since Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope began, Mary Ruth Cochrane has participated in it.
She has a plaque peppered with stickers around the sides, highlighting most of the run’s she’s participated in and it’s hung proudly in her home.
She lost one of her children to cancer five years ago and a brother before that - giving the Marathon of Hope an even stronger meaning for her.
But for Cochrane, it all began when she was still teaching at the Hants West Rural High School while a man named Terry Fox was running across Nova Scotia.
Along with a couple fellow teachers, she organized a run around the school to be a part of the moment.
“It was exciting to have a guy from out west here, with one leg, planning to run across Canada,” Cochrane said. “Some of the teachers, myself included, organized at school and had a run around the school. Some of the students even chose to run backwards, it wasn’t very far to go.”
The Terry Fox Run was founded in 1981, one year after Fox’s legendary attempted cross-country run was cut short when his cancer resurfaced.
Since then, his Marathon of Hope has gained steam, raising more than $750 million towards cancer research – well over Fox’s initial goal of $1 per every Canadian.
That’s largely thanks to thousands of different runs that occur every year across the country, from small groups of no more than a dozen, to hundreds or thousands of people coming together for the cause.
“When I retired we arranged a Terry Fox Run at Sweets Corner,” she said, showing some photographs she’s collected from over the years.
The Sweets Corner run doesn’t happen anymore, but she still remembers it fondly.
Before Terry Fox ran across Nova Scotia, Cochrane was a volunteer with the Canadian Cancer Society.
“My brother had cancer, and I looked after him for quite a bit of time,” she said. “I was with him when he died.”
“Since that, we’ve lost a son to cancer,” she said. “It was hard, but I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with him - and good time. He was an easy person to be with.”
She hasn’t run the whole route in a while, but she still makes the effort to be there.
“I do like supporting the cause, but also, I’ve done it so long, I kind of have to continue,” she said with a laugh.
And it’s not always in Hants County - sometimes she’s found herself in different parts of the country, like British Columbia or New Brunswick.
“Terry Fox started that kind of fundraiser, nobody else had ever done it before,” she said. “It was a huge moment right across the globe.”
She’s participated in the Terry Fox Run every year since it began, except for one. But she always makes a point to try to make it - even the day after her grandson’s wedding.
“We were in Amherst for the wedding, and we stayed and got a group from the wedding to join us,” she said.
“Once we were Edmundston on a bus tour, I got out and had a run of my own,” she said.
During her 35th run, she raised more than $3,500 after one generous donor gave $100 for every year she’s been involved.
“It’s so nice to be doing it with people that are really interested in it,” she said. “This year, I did it with my son, his wife and family friends.”
“Thinking about all of the money that’s been raised and an awful lot of good that’s come from it,” she said. “There’s been so much progress made, in treatments and everything.”
But she has no idea how much she’s contributed in total.
She’s also participated in the Ovarian Cancer Walk of Hope and breast cancer Run For The Cure.
She participated in the latest Marathon For Hope in Windsor, which starts at King’s-Edgehill School and makes its way through the town.
According to organizers, it was their biggest yet.
For Cochrane, that gives her hope.
“I think it’s just amazing that it is still so active,” she said.
But what goes through her mind when she thinks about how long she’s been a part of it?
“I have to keep doing it,” she says with a laugh. “It’s been very important to me, I think a lot good has been done by it.”