Dave McGillivray runs a mile for every year he's lived, every birthday.
DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World
Editor's note: Dave McGillivray has been doing annual "birthday runs" - runs in which the mileage matches the age he's turning - since his 12th birthday. Below is his account of the most recent.
I did my annual birthday run on Thursday, August 11, even though my birthday wasn’t for another 11 days. (My motto: “My Game, My Rules.”) This year, more than ever, I had been increasingly anxious, nervous, and even scared about the birthday run. I’ve been experiencing a number of injuries during the past several months that have not gotten much better – breathing challenges, right Achilles soreness, and left hip pain. I’ve seen my doctors and physical therapists, and although I owe them a lot for keeping me moving, the problems remain.
As such, for the first time in years - and I’ve been doing this now for 45 years - I decided it might be best to try this one on my own. Although I really enjoy having company, I didn’t want to drag friends and family out only to bomb in the first 10 miles, embarrass and disappoint myself, and inconvenience them. So, I snuck out by myself this time: no one running with me and no course support.
I charted out a 3.6-mile course from my house, down to Old North Andover Common, and back, using the house as my home base. I would need to complete 16 loops, so I woke up at 2 a.m. and started the run at 3 a.m. I didn’t realize how dark it is at that time of day. I couldn’t see where I was running, but I did manage to survive until the sun came up.
Surprisingly, though, I was feeling fine. Because my longest run since the Boston Marathon in April had been nine miles, I knew I had no real business doing this, but I had to give it a chance. I planned everything out methodically. I really paid attention to my diet (no alcohol, no soda) for the month beforehand. I was feeling pretty good for the first 30 to 35 miles, except for my injuries. And, for the first time in a number of years, I didn’t walk much at all, maybe just a mile or two at the most.
I never run with an iPod, but it was lonely out there, so I grabbed my wife’s iPod and wore that for a number of loops. I brought my iPhone on a few other loops and made a couple of calls while running, including being on a BAA conference call…multi-tasking!
Doing the same 3.6-mile loop 16 times throughout the day can intrigue onlookers. Many people see you running early in the morning on their way to work and again later in the day on their way home. You can sense that they are scratching their heads wondering what kind of whack-job you are. I ran by one house where a few workers were installing a stone wall. Back and forth in front of them I went. I knew they were wondering what was going on. After a while, one guy yelled out, “Hey, you ever going to stop?” So, I did stop to speak to them for a minute. He recognized me as The Runner who lived on Bear Hill Road. I ended up outlasting the workers, as they were gone way before I finished.
All I ate the entire day was four bagels and two bananas, but I drank 15 bottles of Gatorade. (Morning conditions were great, but the temperature did reach 82 degrees.) Interestingly, I never once bonked or ever felt even close to bonking.
I finished up in the late afternoon and really felt great. A fitting end happened as I was approaching my home on the final loop. The kids who live three houses down from mine had just set up a lemonade stand. Even though they were selling it for 25 cents a glass, they offered it to me for free. So I took it. I ran 57 miles to get a free glass of lemonade…go figure! However, feeling guilty, I went to my house and came back with a dollar to give to the kids. Even kids need to make a buck these days.
Now I can enjoy the rest of the summer, what’s left of it, without this hanging over my head. Of course, I need to continue to ponder where this is all going. It’s a catch-22 in that as long as I continue to finish it, I continue to try it the next year.
The lesson I’ve learned is that even if you may not think something can be accomplished, you really never know until you give it a chance.