MEDFORD— For most Americans, running across the entire United States, over 3,400 miles coast-to-coast and raising close to $150,000 for the Jimmy Fund would be considered a signature achievement in their lives.
For Medford native Dave McGillivray, who was the first runner to raise money for a cancer research organization in the summer of 1978, it was a start.
Forty years later and counting, it is now just a bullet point on a very long list of remarkable achievements by someone who is now one of the most well-known figures ever in the international world of running and race events.
The 1972 Medford High graduate appears to have added an exclamation point to his long list of accomplishments with his latest feat completed last week. McGillivray, 63, was one of 51 hearty individuals who participated in the World Marathon Challenge that included running seven marathons on seven continents in seven days.
McGillivray, who has served as Race Director of the Boston Athletic Association’s (BAA) Boston Marathon for many years, ran as a member of the 12-person “Hold That Plane” group, which raised over $2 million for charities. McGillivray himself ran for the Martin Richard Foundation, named for the youngest victim of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings, raising an estimated $200,000.
For McGillivray, who has run a whopping 147 marathons since he first attempted one at the age of 16, said this latest trek was altogether different.
“All I wanted to do was finish,” McGillivray said. “With my age and other issues I was not going to attempt something on this scale on a purely competitive level. I was happy to participate and ultimately finish this event.”
The over-the-top marathon-fest began in frigid Antarctica and finished in sunny Miami, Florida. In all, McGillivray and the other runners covered 183 ½ miles and charted just over 48 hours in plane travel over the seven days.
Sleep was at a premium and McGillivray said he averaged between three and four hours of shuteye each night.
“There are a lot of factors against you and (lack of sleep) is one of the big ones,” he said, “but we got through it.”
This is the fourth year for the annual World Marathon Challenge, a grueling competition with a full marathon run in each of the seven continents around the globe within 168 hours, or seven days. The number of participants has grown each year, with 51 this year, compared to 33 runners in 2017, 22 in 2016, and 12 runners in 2015.
The first marathon of the seven-race series this year was held on Feb. 5 in Novo, Antarctica followed by Cape Town, South Africa, Perth, Australia), Dubai (Asia), Lisbon, Spain, Cartagena, Colombia and ending in Miami.
McGillivray harkens back to his Medford roots if life of challenges. He first developed his love of running when he won the Medford Recreation summer program races back in the late 1960s. He then started a personal mission when he was just 12 years old: Running a mile for each year of his age, either on or around the time of his birthday. He’s done it ever year since and intends on making it a 64-mile day in August.
He attempted his first Boston Marathon at the age of 16, could not finish, but came back the next year to complete the race. McGillivary has run Boston every year since and has been the Race Director for well over a decade. His custom now is to run the full marathon, and then leg it back to Hopkinton after the last runner has crossed the finish line in downtown Boston.
“It’s important for me to set a goal, achieve it, getting it done and feeling good about myself,” McGillivray said. “Why scale Mount Everest? Why run across the country? People want to be challenged. Some people, like myself, need to be challenged.”