McGillivray’s ninth Ironman finish was about raising money and awareness.
Dave McGillivray, race director of the B.A.A. Boston Marathon, made a triumphant return to the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii on Saturday after a 25-year absence from the event. Now 60 and battling coronary heart disease, McGillivray finished the 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike leg and 26.2-mile run in 13 hours, 34 minutes and 3 seconds while persisting through some of the most difficult wind, sun and heat conditions in the 36-year history of one of the world’s toughest endurance events.
McGillivray, a member of the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame, completed eight Ironman Triathlons in Hawaii in the 1980s. He finished 14th overall in 1980, the third year for the event, making him one of the first 30 athletes to ever finish an Ironman.
“I had two goals—first to get to the starting line and second to get to the finish line, no matter how long it took,” says McGillivray, who wore a “Boston Strong” singlet during the run portion of the race. “I was pleased with my swim and my run. As for the bike, Rome was built quicker than it took me to cover the 112 miles. Wow, the wind out on the course was the toughest I’ve ever experienced. There were times I questioned whether I was going to even make it by midnight, but seeing all the other athletes fight though it actually inspired me to do the same. I am so impressed and humbled by the level of fitness, strength and determination of all the athletes in this race. They are truly amazing.”
His impressive result comes almost one year to the day—Oct. 9, 2013—from his diagnosis of severe coronary heart disease. Additionally, McGillivray had to deal with a fractured rib suffered in a bike accident during his training four weeks ago. The health scare last fall prompted McGillivray to change his diet, eliminate stress and rededicate himself to fitness. Since then he has lost about 25 pounds and lowered his cholesterol level by about 100 points, reducing the disease by about 40 percent.
“Good nutrition, daily dietary supplements, regular weight lifting and core work have made a huge difference, as well as the support from my friends and family and the excellent care of Dr. Aaron Baggish at Mass General,” he says. “I couldn’t do it without all of them.”
McGillivray says he also went public with his disease in hopes of urging others like him to get checkups and helping them understand that “being fit doesn’t mean being healthy.”
His story and message caught the attention of a variety of media over the past year, and he will be profiled by NBC Sports on Nov. 15 (1:30-3 p.m. ET) as part of its coverage of the 2014 Ironman World Championship. McGillivray says he has received countless e-mails and phone calls from “fit” athletes around the country who heard his story, went to get checked out and discovered similar heart issues.
“Their words, ‘you helped save my life’ will stay with me for the rest of mine,” McGillivray says. “They, like me, got a second chance.”
Soon after his diagnosis last fall, McGillivray decided he also needed a big goal to help push him through: a return to Kona for his ninth Ironman.
In preparation for Saturday’s event, he completed five triathlons this summer—three sprints, one Olympic distance and one 70.3-mile half Ironman distance. He finished top three in his age group (60-64) in all five events, winning two of them. Each week, he swam 3-5 miles, biked 200-250 miles and ran 35-60 miles.
In addition, McGillivray completed his annual birthday run when he turned 60 in August (one mile for every year) as well as the Boston Marathon and training runs of 31 and 43 miles. He also participated this year in most of the races DMSE Sports manages—including the TD Beach to Beacon, Bellin Run and New Balance Falmouth Road Race.
McGillivray’s participation in the Ironman triathlon benefitted the Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation (known as MR8), named in honor of the eight-year-old boy who was killed in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. As of Oct. 12, McGillivray had about one-third of his $10,000 goal.
McGillivray, the president of DMSE Sports, first gained national prominence with his 1978 cross-country run that took 80 days and raised almost $150,000 for the Jimmy Fund. He has completed a number of similar feats of endurance since his groundbreaking cross-country trek, including a second cross-country run in 2004 from San Francisco to Boston as part of TREK USA, a relay team event that raised more than $300,000 for five children’s charities. He has now logged more than 150,000 miles, nine Hawaii Ironman Triathlons and has finished 131 marathons—including 42 consecutive Boston Marathons.
McGillivray, a Medford, Mass., native who lives in North Andover, Mass., is a pioneer in what is now one of the most important aspects of the endurance sports industry—combining athletics with philanthropy. Nearly every DMSE Sports event combines fitness and fundraising, giving back to the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Children’s Hospital, Lazarus House and many others charities and non-profit organizations in New England and across the country. McGillivray, along with all the events he has directed, has helped raise more than $100 million for charity over the years.