A student in the University of Northern British Columbia's masters in business administration program is being groomed to take over the Prince George edition of the Terry Fox Run.
After reading a story two months ago in The Citizen about Liza Arnold's decision to step down as the event's lead organizer after a decade in the position, Scott McWalter, 28, thought he should "step up to the plate."
He will handle the marketing and communications for this year's version, set to go this Sunday, and will take over from Arnold for the 2014 run. He's expecting a smooth transition but knows there are some high standards to meet.
"Hopefully, I'll do as good a job as Liza did because she was a phenomenal asset to this run and we still have the same stampede of volunteers that come out every year," McWalter said.
Now in its 33rd year, the run is held every year to commemorate Fox's attempt to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. The 1981 Marathon of Hope came to a heartbreaking end just outside Thunder Bay, Ont. when, after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres, doctors discovered cancer had entered Fox's lungs.
McWalter noted Prince George's special tie to the cause, as it was here that Fox first tested his endurance at the Prince George to Boston marathon (now the Labour Day Classic) in 1979.
"That was the one run that gave Terry the confidence to know he could start this Marathon of Hope and know that he could go through with this huge endeavour," McWalter said.
Fox has been an inspiration to McWalter. The night before McWalter ran his first marathon, he watched a documentary about Fox and said it gave him the boost he needed to complete the 42.2-kilometre race.
Usually about 450 participants take part in the Prince George Terry Fox Run, as they walk, run or inline skate around a five kilometre loop that starts and finishes at the Terry Fox statue at Community Foundation Park next to Four Seasons Pool.
But McWalter hopes to see that number rise to 500 on Sunday.
"That's my challenge to Prince George," he said. "We've been flirting with 450 for about the last five years and I think this community has what it takes to reach north of 500."
Organizing and promoting the event will also be the project McWalter will undertake in working towards his MBA.
"My thesis defence will be in May 2014 and it will be just about how to grow the Terry Fox Run and keep it sustainable and in the minds of future generations of Canadians," McWalter said.
Instead of the four hours of past years, it will be held over two hours this Sunday, starting at 10 a.m. and ending at noon. Pre-registration begins at 9 a.m. at the statue and all ages are welcome.