Dave McGillivray has run his age in miles every year since he was 12
As many people do for their 60th birthday, Dave McGillivray, race director of the Boston Marathon, celebrated with a party. Friends and family gathered at his home, shared food and drinks, and a few even gave a few speeches to honor, or embarrass, the guest of honor. What was not typical of the average 60th birthday celebration was the 60-mile run McGillivray completed as his guests arrived.
Continuing a tradition that began when he was 12, and that has happened every year since, McGillivray ran his age in miles to celebrate his birthday on Saturday, August 9. Although his birthday is August 22, McGillivray has scheduled the annual birthday run on a nearby weekend day since his 40th birthday. Each year, as the miles have increased, it has become a day-long event.
At the time most runners were waking up for their Saturday morning runs, McGillivray had already completed more than 20 miles. The run began at 2 a.m. and consisted of 17 3.5-mile loops, starting and finishing at his home in North Andover, Massachusetts, plus an additional half mile to reach the goal of 60 miles.
Consistent with the qualities that have made him one of the most respected race directors in the country, McGillivray created a birthday run operations manual, which included among other things, his run schedule. He scheduled 50 minutes per loop, with the plan to run each 3.5-mile loop at 10:00/mile pace and use the remaining time to rest and refuel.
The rest breaks, however, were mostly spent welcoming new guests and doing interviews for local news channels. Yet, he was never more than a minute off on any loop and finished, as scheduled at 4:15 p.m.
The crowds increased as the day went on, but McGillivray was never alone on his run, even in the dark early morning hours. Some of his running companions joined for a loop, while others ran more than 20 miles. He was accompanied by family, neighbors and even running legends like Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson and local heroes Rick and Dick Hoyt, the father/son pair who have completed 32 Boston Marathons with father Dick pushing his son Rick in a custom-made wheelchair. The rest of the party’s guest list was a who’s who of New England running, and included several notable race organizers and Boston Athletic Association officials.
By the time McGillivray began his final half mile, most guests had arrived. To cap off the end of his run, his sisters held up the finisher’s tape that, as the crowd cheered, he broke through.
Standing poolside in McGillivray’s backyard, family and friends toasted and roasted the birthday boy. When it was McGillivray’s turn to speak, he appeared grateful for all the friends and family there to share in his celebration. He acknowledged special guests Samuelson and the Hoyts, dwarf triathlete and marathon runner John Young, and Bill and Henry Richard, father and brother of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy killed in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. McGillivray has been running races this past year, including the Boston Marathon, for Team MR8, to raise money for the Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation, and ran in the group’s singlet on Saturday.
When asked beforehand how he felt about this year’s run, McGillivray said he felt fit compared to age 58 or 59. As a result of a recent diagnosis of chronic heart disease, he has changed his diet , lost 27 pounds and dropped his cholesterol by 100 points. McGillivray said his goal for the upcoming year is to get and remain healthy.
McGillivray said he usually does not train for his birthday run. But this year, as he prepares to compete in the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona, Hawaii for the ninth time, he said he is in good shape. So good, in fact, that within 45 minutes of finishing his run, McGillivray was showered and changed into regular clothes, cleaning up empty Gatorade bottles and welcoming guests.
In his book, The Last Pick, McGillivray noted that, although getting older is usually associated with doing less, by running his age, he pushes himself more with each year. As he approached Saturday’s run, he said, he was asked many times when he was going to change the rules and bike his age in miles or run his age in kilometers. While he acknowledged that eventually that day may come, for now, he plants to continue the streak, because he wants to and because he can.