September 16th, 2019 - today - Al Howie would be 74, born on this date in 1945 in West kilbride, Scotland.
September 15th, yesterday - the annual Terry Fox run was held all across the world. The two men from completely different backgrounds are forever linked by a single obsession: to cross Canada on foot.
*Find out more in "In Search of Al Howie."
It began in 1979 in Prince George, British Columbia. Terry arrived to the race like any normal competitor would, in a car. Howie, on the other hand, had run 520 miles from Victoria, where he lived. Both men entered the race with big intentions. Howie wanted to win. Fox wanted to finish. Howie warmed up with a pint. Fox adjusted his artificial leg.
Then, they ran.
The Prince George to Boston Marathon was actually only 17 miles long, but the winner would punch a ticket to the Boston Marathon. Hence the name. Howie came in third and was crushed. Fox came in last and was ecstatic. At the awards dinner, Fox announced with emotion in his voice that he would cross the 4,500-mile breadth of Canada on foot. The next year, Fox was true to his word. He dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic and the rest is history. He pushed and hopped over 2,000 miles, a marathon a day, all in hopes of raising money for Cancer research. The disease had taken his leg, and after he stopped in Thunder Bay, it would take his life. But, his inspiration moved the world and continues to do so to this day.
Al Howie followed a different path. He delved into the extremities of running: 24-hour races, 72-hour races, 6-day races, 1,000-mile races, and became the first to complete the longest race in the world in its day, the 1,300-miler. But the power, the heart, the heroism he witnessed in Fox never left him, and in 1991, he set out across Canada, staying true to Fox's course; he dipped his Brook's Kona in the Atlantic in St. John's, Newfoundland and followed the Trans-Atlantic Highway to Victoria. Al Howie never let up. He pounded two and half marathons a day into the pavement and crossed Canada in 72 days 10 hours. He became the fastest runner to ever attempt it and raised $750,000 for Children with special needs.
Now, both men have both passed on and left us with very different legacies. One had the heart of a lion, the other the legs. They are honored at "Mile 0" in Victoria and stand like sirens to all who dare the run across Canada. But few know that it all started as a dream on a September morning 40 years ago in a race that neither won.