Cuba's 10th annual Terry Fox Marathon of Hope run

Running for Terry in Cuba

April 5, 2007

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By Stuart Colcleugh

He was there on business. But while Robert Huish was in Havana last month he also participated in something immediately familiar and yet totally unknown to most Canadians: Cuba's 10th annual Terry Fox Marathon of Hope run.

Cuba holds its run in March instead of September, like Canada, partly to avoid the hurricane season.

"It was amazing," says the SFU geography PhD student and Trudeau scholar (2004) who has visited Cuba more than a dozen times while researching the country's ability to train students from around the world as doctors, particularly those from humble backgrounds.

"It's the largest Terry Fox run outside of Canada," he says, with a staggering 2.3 million participants this year—20 per cent of the country's 11.4 million citizens—in 4,600 different locations.

None of which surprises Huish, who was joined on the Havana run by his friend Alexandre (Sacha) Trudeau, son of the former prime minister, the late Pierre Trudeau, and Canada's ambassador to Cuba, Alexandra Bugailiskis, along with some 6,000 Cubans.

"Cuba treats free healthcare as a fundamental human right, and with any sort of public awareness campaign to promote wellness and healthcare they go full on," he explains. "Plus Cuba's healthcare system caters more towards prevention and promotion, and their take on the Terry Fox run is a stunning reflection of their philosophy."

Huish was in Havana to assist a rare delegation of U.S. physicians touring local hospitals and healthcare centres (the U.S. government normally prohibits Americans from travelling to Cuba).

He's now in Montreal writing his doctoral thesis on Havana's Latin American School of Medicine, which trains poor students from rural Latin America to become qualified physicians.

And how did he make out on the run? "No comment," laughs Huish. "But I'll be back to do it again."

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