If there’s a competitive foot race nearby, or a fun run for charity, Tom Ullyett will almost certainly be there.
The 58-year-old deputy minister of Justice has been an avid runner since his teen years, with at least 40 half-marathons under his belt, not to mention too many shorter-distance events to count.
In 1991, he and fellow Whitehorse lawyer Dan Shier co-founded the annual Law Day Charity Fun Run and Walk, which has raised over $50,000 for various Yukon causes so far.
And, in typical Ullyett fashion, this month he intends to follow his annual participation in the Klondike Road Relay, with a romp around the Millennium Trail a week later as part of the Terry Fox Run to raise money for cancer research.
Why not? He’s been involved in this event every year since the first Terry Fox Run in Whitehorse in the late 1980s.
Like many who participate in the annual September ritual in communities across Canada and elsewhere, Ullyett feels a personal connection to the one-legged runner from Port Coquitlam, B.C. after whom it is named.
For one thing, they were born in the same year and shared a passion for athletics.
For another, while Fox was making his westward way across Canada in the summer of 1980, at a punishing pace of 42 km a day, Ullyett was also on the move, by thumb, from Ontario to Alberta.
“I remember standing by the side of the road and thinking, ‘Terry Fox is going to run by here at some point, or has run by here,'” he says.
Ullyett had just started a new year at the University of Calgary that September when Fox announced he was suspending his run after 5,373 km, because the cancer that had taken his right leg had returned and migrated into his lungs.
“Like so many people, I was shocked by the news, and saddened that he literally ran out of time.”
Like many thousands of others, Ullyett has st
ood beneath the statue of Fox just east of Thunder Bay, Ontario, admiring the memorial “and the single-mindedness” of a young man whose efforts have inspired more than $750 million in fundraising since his death in 1981.
Ullyett says the annual event attracts community members who range from infants in carriers to people in their 80s.
“While many people do run, there are many other modes of transport that people use in Whitehorse’s Terry Fox Run. It’s a pretty wide-open event that way,” he stresses.
“It’s a great community event, it’s a terrific fundraiser and we all need role models and heroes to look up to and be inspired by, no matter how old or young we may be.”
Registration for this year’s run in Whitehorse is at 12 noon on Sunday, Sept. 18 at Rotary Peace Park. The run itself begins at 1 p.m. and is followed by a barbecue and musical entertainment.
For information about Terry Fox events in other Yukon communities the same day, go to http://www.terryfox.org/Run/Find_A_Runsite.html.