The Race Director Series – Dave McGillivray, Boston Marathon

Dave McGillivray’s first fling with the world’s oldest and most famous road race was as an 18-year-old participant. He’s now been the Race Director of the Boston Marathon for the last 32 years.

What is the best thing about being the Race Director of such a prestigious marathon?
I think knowing that the work and effort that the entire team has committed to in making this the best marathon in the world can be life changing for some folks and has given them the platform to perform, finish the race and go home feeling good about themselves.  That makes us feel good about what we have done.

What are some of the challenges you face?
We are a victim of our own success given that so many want to run but we can’t accept everyone. That is frustrating but is also a reason why the race remains so popular. The biggest challenge we all face in this road racing industry is weather. Although we plan for the worst and hope for the best, it is always challenging if the weather does not cooperate – rain, cold, heat, lightning, wind – they all can wreak havoc on what is already a challenge event to manage.

You’ve ran the Boston Marathon for the past 47 consecutive years, the last 32 at night post-Race Director duties. How do you find the post-marathon marathon and who runs with you?
For me, it is like the calm after the storm. As each year passes and I get older, it does get a little more challenging! It’s a long day.  I’m up around 3.00am and I don’t finish my run until around 10.00pm or 11.00pm. But, I wouldn’t change a thing.  As for who runs with me, it varies from year-to-year, sometimes just two or three friends and sometimes a group of about 15! Every year is different.

The Boston Marathon

Do you take some time out to relax after the big day?
NO! My company, DMSE Sports, manages about 35 events a year so once Boston is done it’s on to the next one and the next one and the next one! No rest for the weary!

At the age of 12, you started running your age in miles on your birthday each year – never missing a year in the past 51 years! Are you regretting this challenge later in life?
Am I regretting this challenge? Well…good question! I do sometimes a week or so before my birthday knowing the challenge that lies ahead of me but once I get it done, I am pumped that I did it again! My motto in life is: ‘it’s my game so it is my rules!’ As such, I am free to change the rules anytime I want. I will continue to cover my age in miles but will modify it by doing some running and some biking. We’ll see how it goes…

You’ve ran more than 150,000 miles in your lifetime, including 156 marathons – aside from Boston, what has been your favourite and why?
I actually enjoy them all. Each race is different with its own theme, character, challenges. Tough to pick a favourite. I’m just glad I am still able to participate in them.

McGillivray on his 80-day run across the US

In 1978 you ran across the US, for the Jimmy Fund of Boston, covering a total 3,452 miles in 80 days.  What an incredible achievement! How did you sustain 45 miles per day? What were the highlights and lows of your epic adventure?
How did I run 45-miles a day? Simple…I was young and naïve – and didn’t know any better! Ha! The lowest point was in Ely, NV in the desert. My knee went on me and I had to go to the hospital but they could not do anything for it. I then realize the cause, which turned out to be the fact that I was running all my miles on the same side of the road. I then switched sides and two days later it went away. The highlight of course was finishing in Fenway Park on August 29, 1978 in front of 32,000 screaming fans!

How does it feel to publish your second book, in August 2019, Running Across America: A True Story of Dream, Determination and Heading for Home?
I actually wish I had written these children’s books years ago! They have become a big hit and have opened my eyes to how they can inspire and motivate children. I have included in the back of the book the Dream Big Marathon, where I encourage kids to read 26 books, run 26 miles and do 26 acts of kindness, thus focusing on these key pillars – education, health and fitness and giving back.  It has taken off and I’m so thrilled about it all. I just don’t want kids to read the book and put it down…I want there to be a “call to action” and the Dream Big Marathon has been just that.

You’ve given more than 1,900 motivational speeches across the world, but what is your top tip for those starting out on their running journey?
The only way you can truly “fail” in life is to not try at all.  If you try and perhaps don’t accomplish everything you had hoped for, it is not failure, it is a learning experience. The toughest part about running in a road race is filling out the application, making the commitment, wanting to do it and believing that you can. Then, you have to ‘earn the right’ to do it by doing the work, training, discipline. It’s never easy, but the reward is crossing the finish line, getting the medal and going home feeling good about yourself as that is the foundation on which we accomplish everything else in our lives.

Anything else happening in 2020 that you’d like to mention?
Right now, just looking forward to running and finishing my 48th consecutive Boston Marathon. We’ll see how the rest of my spring and early summer training goes. I would like to get back into doing a few triathlons this year. Still recovering a little bit from my triple bypass surgery back in October, 2018. Feeling pretty good now though – fingers crossed. I still have a lot more to accomplish!