Terry Fox Run: Cuba

By Irina Echarry, Photos: Caridad

Terry Fox Run - March 21, 2009 - Havana, Cuba

HAVANA TIMES, March 24 – Downtown Havana’s Prado Street filled with people last Saturday on the first day of spring, as the Capitolio Building was both the starting and finishing lines for the annual Terry Fox Run.

Despite the rain, or perhaps because of its presence, the event was more touching than in previous years.  Prosthetic legs, crutches, wheelchairs, canes – all were wet from the puddles that formed in the street.

Yordan Dueñas was the first Cuban to cross the finish line. “I’m 16 years old, and since I was a little kid I have come here to run. I want to see that sick people are treated. I know I’m not a magician, but my participation gives them support,” he said.

The race is not competitive, but Yordan always runs as if by winning he could save lives.

Milagro Valdes, a woman who scolded her grandson who didn’t want to get wet, told us, “I have several friends who have died of cancer and some relatives. That’s why I’m committed to this event. Also, I graduated as a nurse, and I’m retired. I’ve been coming since 2001.”

Terry Fox Run - March 21, 2009 - Havana, Cuba
Terry Fox Run - March 21, 2009 - Havana, Cuba

Milagro added, “I will continue as long as I can, though I’m getting up in age. The day that I’m not able to make it, I’ll send a message of support. This is a type of help, although many people don’t think so. I’m trying to make sure my grandson feels the same thing I do, that’s why I bring him.  He knows who Terry Fox was. I’ve been bringing him since he was little, and he knows about Terry’s willpower. I hope he’s inspired by that example.”

Terry Fox Run - March 21, 2009 - Havana, Cuba
Terry Fox Run - March 21, 2009 - Havana, Cuba

People with balloons, children with puppets or skates, and a man on a unicycle – all types of people were there, as it were a circus event. Happiness rained everywhere in that run for life.

Rosa Maria Cepeda was moved when she saw a boy running blindfolded, and another one who was missing a leg, and a young girl who said she wanted to win to all cost. “I’m an outreach worker at the Abel Santamaria Policlinic,” she commented. “I’m collecting literature here to take to medical clinics to spread the word about the importance of this run. People know who Terry Fox was; they talk about him a lot on TV.  Just recently they recounted his story for those that didn’t know about his illness and how he faced it.”

Terry Fox Run - March 21, 2009 - Havana, Cuba
Terry Fox Run - March 21, 2009 - Havana, Cuba

Members of the Wings for Life project paraded as a united group with a big-lettered banner reading “Healthy Lifestyles Fight against Cancer.” People know there are many forms of solidarity and dedication.

This marathon of hope unites sick and healthy people around a single cause. People of all ages, races, genders, and nationalities melt in warm hugs.

On the back of one man is a poster that says “By not smoking, drinking and screwing over your family, you can live to be a healthy 100.” The race provides such opportunities to promote the benefits of healthy lifestyles.

Several children dressed in their bright Tai Chi outfits performed briefly before sprinting away to color the landscape of the capital. Likewise, Terry Fox decals covered the bodies of some girls, while prestigious athletes ran alongside their fans.

Edilia Mederos and Marta Gutierrez, patients at the Friends of the Heart rehabilitation center at the Asclepio Hospital, wore tee shirts that sported the picture of the young Canadian hero.

Yordan Dueñas, 16, was the first Cuban to cross the finish line.
Yordan Dueñas, 16, was the first Cuban to cross the finish line.

“Every year they announce this, and we come. It’s very touching to see so many people, it helps us a lot.  We can’t run anymore, but we walk briskly. It’s a shame that the day has been so bad, but now the sun is coming out. Everybody who came participated in one way or another. The important thing is that more and more people come and are getting involved in this solidarity run,” said Edilia.

She cited the saying “There is no Saturday without sun.”  Then -as if moved by the force of thought of the thousands participating in this race all over Cuba- the rain stopped.

During the year, many businesses, agencies and individuals moved by the event make cash donations to promote research against cancer.

Likewise, the race was a great way to simply celebrate the beginning of spring. The flowers across the island will now sprout with added force.

Click on the thumbnails to see all the photos in this gallery

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