By Irina Echarry, photos: Caridad
HAVANA TIMES, March 22 — With the visit of the family of Canada’s late Terry Fox, the Maratón de la Esperanza (The Hope Marathon) took place in Havana on March 20. Every year hundreds of Cubans gather in front of the Kid Chocolate Gym and facing the Capitolo Building to shorten the distance separating cancer from people who are healthy.
United by jogging or walking, they all turn out here for the same reason: to honor the young man who —when finding out he was ill— decided to embark on a long journey through the streets (even after he lost a leg to the malignancy) to help raise funds for cancer research.
After Canada, Cuba is the country with the most people who gather for this race. Children, teens, seniors, women and men alike turn out in mass under the sun.
At ten in the morning the whistle sounded the start. People in wheelchairs, with canes, on bicycles, carrying colorful flags and posters —everyone with lots of laughter— advanced to the beat of the applause from the crowd swarming around them to see them off and to boost their spirits.
Juanita, an elderly woman over 80 years old, tries never to miss the event:
“I come because I train in part to demonstrate what I’m capable of at my age. Many young people didn’t make the complete route, but I did – at my own speed, but I finished.” Juanita belongs to the Wu Shu Society; every morning she does her exercises and convinces some friend about the benefits of physical activity.
“In this race you don’t compete. The act of participating already represents a victory, because if you can run this much then you must not be in too bad a condition. I come here every year. I had cancer of the tonsils, but fortunately they got rid of it with serums and laser treatment. But I’ll continue showing up here,” said Marcos, a 48-year-old ex-fumigator who ran the whole itinerary made up of Prado, Neptuno, Galiano and San Lazaro streets.
But not everybody runs; some go on skates, others walk and there are those who don’t waste the opportunity to demonstrate their pride.
This is the case of one man who dresses his two dogs in uniforms of the hometown Industriales baseball team.
The unfortunate dogs ride on the man’s bicycle, barking at everyone who gets near, with the canines nervous due to their circumstances. Wouldn’t it be better if he allowed them to run? For the animals: yes, but the owner would lose out on being the center of the crowd’s attention.
A multitude is covered with photos of Terry Fox, on their faces, on their arms or simply on bookmarks that people bring up to Betty (Terry’s mother) so she can sign them.
Workers from the Oncological Hospital say they always come with their patients and their families.
Said one of these employees, “It’s a way of supporting them, and it’s so moving to see people struggling for life, that’s why we bring the kids, so they learn about the will of these people who are ill.”
The sun insists on warming up the athletes. The children smile at the camera of our photographer, who also has to run to keep up… well, that’s why people come to the Marathon of Hope.
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