Long May He Run

People celebrate birthdays in a thousand different ways, but once you reach prime AARP membership age, the festivities for most people, unless you’re George H. W. Bush and favor sky diving, tend to be sedate, perhaps dinner and a movie and an early bedtime.

Dave McGillivray finishes his 60 mile birthday run.

Dave McGillivray finishes his 60 mile birthday run.


Of course Dave McGillivray, race director of the Boston Marathon and dozens of other big events like Beach to Beacon and this weekend’s Falmouth Road Race, isn’t most people. Since he was 12 years old, McGillivray has been running a mile for every year he’s spent on earth. Usually, he does this on a 3.5 mile loop around his hometown of North Andover, MA, although some past celebrations have occurred as part of transcontinental runs he’s done, once ending with a lap of Fenway Park before a Red Sox game.

This year McGillivray turns 60 (August 22 is the actual date if you want to send a card of electronic best wishes), so he decided to up the ante a notch or two by culminating the run with a celebration at his house for 170 friends and family. Throughout the history of these birthday runs McGillivray’s motto has been, “My Game, My Rules,” so this year he’d jump the gun by two weeks, scheduling the affair for the “off” week between B2B and Falmouth. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so must Dave hate to see an unfilled date on his calendar.

McGillivray had more to celebrate this time than just the passing of another year. In April, he oversaw the successful running of the Boston Marathon, smoothly shepherding the second largest field in the history of the race just a year after a pair of horrific finish line bomb blasts threatened its very existence. And he’s faced and overcome a personal physical challenge, attacking a surprising diagnosis of coronary heart disease with the same fervor he plans and executes races, losing weight and dropping his cholesterol by 70 points, and training for the Kona Ironman as a goal event.

The gods certainly smiled on McGillivray this year as he began his loops under a nearly-full moon and cool skies at 2 a.m. Throughout the night and as the sun rose he was never alone, accompanied by a shifting crew as he wore a path in the sidewalks around the town green.

At 4 p.m., right on schedule, he made the final ascent up the hill to his house, then continued on for a half mile to bring the mileage total up to the full 60. Then it was time to refuel and socialize with the crowd that included running luminaries like Joan Samuelson, B.A.A. executive director Tom Grilk, and Dick and Rick Hoyt among others.

Amazingly, the next day McGillivray was back out on the roads running and cycling, up early. “Lots on the to-do list,” he wrote. Falmouth loomed a week away, and there was that little swim-bike-run affair in Hawaii a few months down the road to prepare for.

In his remarks at the party, McGillivray told everyone, “see you back here in 10 years.” While it may have been said partly in jest, don’t bet against him. I’m sure the planning has already begun.


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