Runners in Chennai gather on a Sunday morning to carry the Terry Fox legacy forward…

I pull my lazy self up on a cloudy Sunday morning; so blissfully perfect to remain tucked in bed. Sceptical of how many people would have turned up for the Terry Fox run, held at the IIT campus, I stroll into the lush green campus.

As I puzzle over how to spot the marathon team on acres of IIT ground, I am greeted by a trail of about 100 people rhythmically crossing the landmark Gajendra Circle. They slowly jog past me, stopping by check posts to pick up water bottles and catch their breath. I cringe at the number of plastic bottles filling up the bins but tuck the thought away for later consideration. More people continue to join the run and the trail keeps growing.

Two main aims

Nandini Krishnan, a third year student of the Ramachandra Medical College, speaks to me as she kits up for the 6.4 km run. “As a medical student, I am involved with cancer research and see patients regularly. This is my contribution towards spreading awareness about the disease.” She leaves me to join the other runners.

To help understand her intentions better, I approach K. Rajendran, President of Rotary Club, Madras East, which has supported this run. He engagingly explains, “This marathon today has two main aims. One is to re-establish the fact that cancer is curable and that being diagnosed with it is not the end. The other is to make people realise that today's research is tomorrow's cure.”

And the aims seem to have been accomplished with many cancer survivors sharing optimistic stories with the crowd about their fight and the kind of hope that research can offer. Rajendran proves me wrong by placing the turnout of runners at 3,500; an increase of 500 from last year.

As Akash Dube, the 17-year-old IIT-M research intern and cancer survivor, who brought the Terry Fox run to India last year, thanks the huge crowd that turned up to support him in his effort to spread awareness about cancer, I wonder what brings these people from across the city to sweat it out on a Sunday with the clouds threatening to open up anytime?

Offering help

R. Vishwanathan, a retired accountant helps me understand the compassion, as he pulls out various news clippings from a green cloth bag, “I read about Akash in the newspapers and wanted to show my support for the cause. People laughed at Terry Fox, but he managed to raise funds for cancer research. Akash here is recreating the efforts of Terry Fox and I wanted to be here and express my solidarity for him.” He puts away the clippings and adds, “I have always donated blood and now I want to donate stem cells. I had some doubts regarding that and came here to find out about that too.”

I completed the 6.4 km of the Terry Fox run, jogging along with the runners; my very first marathon for a cause. As I watch Akash talking to people and posing for pictures, my scepticism of Sunday mornings and charity marathons cowers. I walk out of the IIT campus, enlightened about the disease, the importance of research and the lack of funds to invest in meaningful research, with one of the signboards etched on my mind; cancer is not communicable, but awareness can certainly be.

Keywords: Terry Fox run

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