The Boston Marathon race director shares his inspiring true story with young bookworms.
Dave McGillivray has all the prerequisites of a great storyteller—a captivating narrative, a laundry list of achievements, and a truly inspiring message. Recently, the runner and race director of the Boston Marathon has combined these elements in writing his first children’s book, Dream Big ($16.95, amazon.com).
And the pages that followed were not a fairytale, but more an autobiography.
Dream Big is the true story of a young McGillivray, an exceptional athlete, but much smaller than his friends and always picked last for teams. Without the height of a basketball starting forward, he set his sights on running at age 12. “There weren’t any tryouts,” McGillivray told Runner’s World by phone. ”It was the sport they couldn’t cut me from.”
And it turns out that he was pretty good at it. Each year from then on he ran his age on every birthday, and upon turning 17 he announced a new goal to his grandfather. McGillivray would run a marathon—Boston.
Unfortunately, his first attempt in 1972 didn’t go as planned. He collapsed at mile 18 and couldn’t finish the race. But McGillivray would be back, again and again. He has completed every Boston Marathon 45 years in a row in memory of his grandfather. As the race director, he does his race every year after his duties overseeing the race are done on Marathon Monday.
Through the retelling of his own story, McGillivray hopes that he can inspire children to set lofty goals and follow their own dreams.
“It was so important for me as a kid to aim really high and to have these big, ambitious dreams,” McGillivray said. “And it’s okay not to achieve them the first time, but you keep going, and working hard, and you earn your way there.”
And on the final page of Dream Big, McGillivray gives kids a great place to start. He invites them to participate in “The Dream Big ‘Marathon’” in which children run 26 miles (not all at once), read 26 books, and perform 26 acts of kindness in 26 weeks. Students can report their progress to their teachers and will be awarded a Dream Big race medal upon completing the challenge.
“I didn’t want kids to read the book and then forget the message, so I made sure there was a call to action. They’re staying involved and setting goals and working toward something,” McGillivray said. “And when they succeed, they see a reward for making it to the finish line.”
McGillivray says that a full Dream Big series is in the works, and his second book, The Home Run, is already written. It recounts his 80-day, 3,452-mile run across the United States from Medford, Oregon, to Medford, Massachusetts, in 1978. McGillivray completed the cross-country trek to raise money for the Jimmy Fund and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, finishing to a 32,000-strong standing ovation in Fenway Park.