Bill Pristanski participated in his first Terry Fox run in 1981. He hasn’t missed one since, and he won’t this year either. That kind of deep commitment doesn’t come lightly.
In 1980, he says, he was with his mother and father in Ste. Saint Marie when Terry Fox passed through town on his run that was intended to cross Canada. When he stopped to speak at city hall, Pristanki’s mother, who was fighting breast cancer, heard his story and was inspired by his words.
The following year, Pristanski signed up to run the 10-kilometre event, for his mother.
“We had another three years with her,” he says, and when she died, he pledged to continue each year. “I run for her.”
Although he lives in Ottawa, he has participated in many different locations, and will take part in the NOTL event for the second time this Sunday.
In 1980, he says, the survival rate of women with breast cancer was just 20 per cent. Now, thanks to the Terry Fox Foundation and other organizations funding cancer research, the numbers have flipped — the five-year survival rate statistics from the Canadian Cancer Society show it’s now 88 per cent.
While the Terry Fox annual run can’t help but make him think of his mother, the good news is, he says, “many, many years later my father got cancer. Now he’s cancer-free, and at 91, living a good life. He’s a survivor, and it’s the fact that we’ve done so much to understand the disease that’s helped him.”
In 1983, Pristanski moved to Ottawa to work as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s executive assistant.
He met with Fox family members several times, working with them to organize events, and in 2013, he was elected chair of the Terry Fox Foundation board of directors, a position he held until recently, when he handed it off to his vice-chair.
He speaks of an exciting $150 million project, the Marathon of Hope Cancer Centre, supported by the federal government and now in the works to create a federal network of cancer foundations, all helping to raise funding for research, working together to further improve technology, treatments and outcomes.
Unlike the U.S., where great research is done but not shared, “we’ll share ours with the world.”
Pristanski, founder of consulting firm Prospectus Associates in Ottawa, has run in locations across the country, helping to boost community totals.
He ran once in Maui, and once in Nantucket, when he had to map out his own route, his wife and son riding alongside him on a moped.
Last year, he ran with his son in New York’s Central Park — Canada wasn’t holding group runs, but the U.S. was.
He has raised more than $900,000 for the foundation, and hopes to eventually top $1 million.
He comes to town every year with a large group of people— this year 27 of them — to see Shaw plays, and fortunately for NOTL, this year the trip coincides with the run weekend.
Although his group members don’t necessarily run with him, he says, they do contribute.
Pristanski has already raised more than $35,000 for this Sunday’s run, putting the NOTL run seventh of communities across Canada.
Now 67, he says “the runs seem to get longer every year, but they keep telling me it’s still 10 kilometres.”
It will be a busy few days, in town from Thursday to Monday, and will include a massage that’s already booked at the Oban Inn, where he’s staying, after
In his group is a doctor who always accompanies him, checking his pulse at the half-way mark, and so far his training has kept
him in good shape. “I do run, but I only run 10K once a year,” he says.
To register a team, or to donate to the Terry Fox Run, Pristanski or any team registered, go to https://run.terryfox.ca/3635.
The run is this Sunday, Sept. 18, beginning in Simcoe Park at 9 a.m.