It has become tradition that each year after Dave McGillivray completes his duties as race director for the Boston Marathon, he makes the trek back out to Hopkinton from the finish line to run the race himself.
He’s run the Boston Marathon for 46 consecutive years, and, on Monday, he brought it up to 47, just six months after he underwent triple bypass surgery. He’s run 157 marathons in total.
“I would definitely put it up there as the toughest one and the most challenging,” McGillivray told Boston.com on Tuesday. “But it probably was the most special, given that I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.”
The 64-year-old ran Boston this year for Team Big Heart, the marathon running team for the Joseph Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation, surpassing his goal of raising $100,000. McGillivray said his goal was to give back and create awareness about heart illness, and along the way he befriended Jack Middlemiss and his family. Jack was born with cardiomyopathy, the same illness that his brother, Joseph, died from at age 6. Jack underwent a heart transplant when he was 5.
McGillivray said the boy became his “inspiration,” and they became “heart warriors” together.
“My mission now in life is to create an awareness that just because you’re fit, doesn’t mean you’re healthy, and that if you feel something, do something about it,” he said. “There were times in my life when I thought I was invincible, and I never thought they were warning pains. I just thought they were challenging pains. And now I realize there are warning pains out there, and you have to really recognize the difference and act on them. That’s what I did, and, as a result, I gave myself a second chance.”
Going into his run, he said he wasn’t quite sure what to expect with it being his first marathon since the surgery.
Even though his doctors had signed off on it and his heart and breathing felt OK, he said he was nervous about his level of conditioning since he couldn’t do much running for a few months.
“I said, I’m really going to have to dig deep on this one, knowing what it’s going to take, having been there a number of times before,” McGillivray said. “But in the end, it all went extremely well. My breathing was very controlled. I felt pretty good most of the way, although, it was without a doubt the hardest marathon I’ve ever run.”
Typically, when McGillivray runs his Boston Marathon each year, a handful of people accompany him.
But this year, he had a team of 16, including nine teammates who ran the World Marathon Challenge with the 64-year-old last year, who left Hopkinton just before 4 p.m. with him.
“I told them all upfront that I wouldn’t be able to talk much,” McGillivray said. “I haven’t been able to run and talk because I’m just concentrating on my breathing and trying to conserve my energy. So they all talked to me. And that was the type of distraction you need sometimes to make the miles go by quicker. So they rotated, and, as I ran, one ran with me and chatted with me for a while, and then the next one and the next one did. And that was extremely helpful.”
When McGillivray started his journey down Boylston toward the finish line, another runner raced to greet him and his son, Luke, and complete the marathon by their sides — Jack Middlemiss.
— BostonTweet (@BostonTweet) April 16, 2019
“To have Luke, my son, running across the finish line with me and then Jack running across the finish line with me, was probably the most memorable moment I’ve had in my 47 years of running the marathon,” he said.
They crossed the finish line at 9:44 p.m. where Jack presented McGillivray with his finishing medal for the 2019 Boston Marathon.
McGillivray was also presented with another item to commemorate his return to the sport — a medal of a heart, divided in two.
“I got a piece of it, and Jack got a piece of it,” he said. “It was pretty cool, and it says, ‘Dave’s Night Run,’ on it. It’s very special.”
McGillivray said he hopes that his completion of the marathon just six months after his own surgery signals to others that it is possible to “get back on the road.”
“You can’t do this alone,” he said. “There’s no such thing as an individual accomplishment, at least that’s how I feel. That it’s a group effort, a team effort. It truly is. Without the support of the people urging you on and helping you medically and just helping you emotionally, it would be really tough to do this. So that’s the idea, surround yourself with good people and you can accomplish extraordinary things.”
As for his next race, McGillivray said he plans to take the next few months to “truly heal” from his surgery. He may run a few road races in the coming three or four months. But he doesn’t want to stress his body too much so he can come back and accomplish his next goal — to run Boston again and “run it to race it.”
“I’m a competitor,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been doing all my life. So I’d like to be competitive in my own age category if you will, and it’s going to be interesting to see if that indeed happens. That you can have surgery and come back stronger than what you were going into it. And that’s another step that I’d like to be able to prove to some, if possible.”