MILFORD DAILY NEWS
FRAMINGHAM — At 17 years old, Dave McGillivray didn’t finish his first Boston Marathon. After collapsing just before Heartbreak Hill he was brought to Newton-Wellesley Hospital by ambulance.
After the 1972 attempt as an unregistered runner, his grandfather told him he didn’t fail, but had learned something.
“I said, ‘Great what did I learn?’” said McGillivray, now the race director for the Marathon. “He said, ‘You learned that you cannot go along in life and set reckless goals. You had no business being in that race.’”
He acknowledged he didn’t “earn the right” to run the race without proper training.
Since then, McGillivray has run the Boston Marathon more than 45 times. He has logged more than 150,000 miles, most for charity, raising millions for worthy causes.
He recently released a children’s book about his running endeavors called “Dream Big.”
McGillivray is this year’s recipient of the MetroWest YMCA’s Inspiration Award. When accepting the honor Friday morning at the Rally for Youth and Families Community Breakfast he said charity runners for the YMCA earned the right to run. The event held at the Sheraton Framingham Hotel & Conference Center launched the organization’s annual fundraising campaign and highlighted accomplishments of individuals and the community.
The award was presented by last year’s winners Dick and Rick Hoyt, the world-famous father-son marathon duo.
A team of 15 runners will raise about $100,000 for financial aid and key programs such as LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, diabetes prevention and summer camps for kids. Each runner has committed a minimum of $7,500 with some aiming higher.
One of the runners, Sarah Kasper, of Natick, said she believes in what the organization stands for – inclusion, community, and healthy living.
She wanted to run the Marathon since the 2013 bombings at the finish line and found out about running for the YMCA through the Natick Runners Facebook page.
“I am actually a YMCA kid at heart, I’ve worked at the YMCA for years,” she said.
This will be her first Marathon.
“I looked at the training schedule and said, ‘This is impossible,’” she said. “But every week your mileage increases little bit, by little bit and you become more confident.”
Rick MacPherson, CEO of the MetroWest YMCA, said each runner takes on a huge challenge in running the Marathon for the organization.
“Every one of our 15 runners has had the Y impact them in their life at some point, so we know it helps them when setting their goal to both finish the race and raise the required money,” he said. “It is a substantial amount of money and that’s not easy.”
Grace Sentongo, a single mother, came to the United States in 2015 from her native Uganda with her son, Blessed. In a video shown during Friday’s event, she said was able to send her son to the YMCA after-school program with the help of scholarships.
“I noticed he was kind of a sad boy,” she said, “but when he came to the Y everything changed. Every time I would pick up a joyful, happy boy.”
She is grateful for the people who donate to the organization without even knowing how the money will touch someone.
Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer said she too benefited from the YMCA growing up in Brooklyn, New York.
“I remember taking crafts and African dance,” she said.
Spicer encouraged the room of more than 200 to do their best.
“Run your race every day,” she said. “Every day you get another opportunity to be better than yesterday. I use that quite frequently in everything I do, whether I face adversity, I stand up and say, ‘I can do better today.’”
Since taking over as race director in 1988, McGillivray now returns to the start line on the afternoon of the event and runs the Marathon himself.
“I’ve been the last finisher of the Boston Marathon for 30 years in a row,” he said. “And that’s OK.”
McGillivray said he’s often asked what he thinks is his greatest accomplishment.
“I always say the same thing, my best accomplishment is my next one,” he said. “You know you can’t live in the past. That’s gone. I take the rearview mirror in my car and throw it away because I don’t want to look back, I want to look forward.”
He said the YMCA gives kids a chance.
“The worst injustice we can ever do with ourselves is to underestimate our own ability,” he said. “And those who say it can’t be done shouldn’t interrupt those who are doing it. There is no such thing as failing, only learning experiences. The only way you fail is if you don’t try.