RUNNING OUT OF TROUBLE

BOSTON HERALD

A couple of days ago, I asked a friend if he knows who Dave McGillivray is. “Of course,” said my friend. “He’s the guy who runs.”

That’s Dave McGillivray, all right. He’s the guy who runs.

As in he once ran across the United States to raise money for the Jimmy Fund. As in he’s completed hundreds of marathons. And numerous Ironman competitions.

He’s the guy who celebrates his birthday by running a mile for each year he’s been on earth. On his last birthday, Aug. 22 (“Same as Yaz,” McGillivray says), he ran 59 miles.

Dave McGillivray is perhaps best known as the race director of the Boston Marathon, a post he has held in one form or another since 1988. Each year, Dave runs the marathon . . . and then runs the marathon. Having spent most of the day attending to every last detail, he heads back out to Hopkinton and runs the 26.2 miles to Copley Square.

He is, then, the picture of health.

Except that, as he recently discovered, looks can be deceiving.

It was just a few months ago that McGillivray, who was finding himself short of breath at the beginning of his runs, decided to undergo an extensive array of tests. He had been tested before, but, as he put it, “None of those tests indicated I was in trouble.”

This time he underwent the big-boy tests, including a CT scan and an angiogram.

This time he found out he was in trouble.

What McGillivray learned was that he had “multiple blockages and narrowing in a number of my arteries,” he said. “One was 70 percent, and the others were in the 40-50 range.

“They weren’t 99 (percent) and they weren’t 100 like some people,” he said. “The good news is that other arteries coming from my heart were strong and healthy. But it was a wake-up call nonetheless.

“The tough part for me was seeing with my own eyes that image on the screen as I was lying there on the table,” he said. “The doctor was pointing at all the branches, saying, ‘There’s some here,’ and, ‘There’s some over there,’ and I wasn’t expecting that.”

How could this be? How could Dave McGillivray, this bastion of running, this poster boy for fitness, have all this going on? You probably already know the answers, how hereditary traits can be a factor in heart disease, but there’s also this: “Being fit and being in good health aren’t always the same thing,” McGillivray said.

“I’m from that ‘Leave It to Beaver’ era,” he said. “You know, meat and potatoes. I was hard-core. That’s what I ate, what I lived on. I always felt like if the furnace was hot enough, it would burn everything. And I never really gained any weight, so I wasn’t showing signs that what I was eating was hurting me.

“My weight was controlled and my energy was high,” he said. “I never got sick. Until recently, there were no indicators.”

Since receiving the test results in October, McGillivray has avoided red meat and “anything and everything that has any saturated or trans fats in it.” He has been taking medication. And he has been making regular visits to his doctor.

Dave McGillivray is back running again. Yes, he checked first with his doctor, whose advice was to control the intensity of his workouts, to keep his heart rate down, to . . . well, not be so Dave McGillivray.

“It’s not like I’m out there running six-minute miles,” he said. “I’m doing a pedestrian eight-, nine-minute pace.”

A concerned bystander might wonder if it’s possible for Dave McGillivray to not be intense.

“True,” he said. “A cynic can say or think anything they want. I know how I feel. And right now I feel as good as I’ve felt in the last 15 or 20 years.”

He will continue hanging out with his doctor. He will continue watching what he eats. He will continue monitoring how he feels when he runs.

In the aftermath of the senseless, tragic bombings at the finish line of this year’s marathon, there will be heightened interest in the 2014 Boston Marathon. His duties being what they are, then, McGillivray isn’t sure when he’ll be able to get back out to Hopkinton for his traditional run to Copley Square.

“My goal is to do that as long as I have the job,” he said. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I’ve been doing it for 41 years. Why stop now?”