Legendary Advice

Boston Marathon Race Director Offers Stories and Advice on Running Across America


In 1978, David McGillivray ran 3,452 miles, from Oregon to Massachusets, finishing to a standing ovation of 32,000 fans at Boston's Fenway Park. His effort raised thousands of dollars for cancer and he went on to complete a number of other challenges in his life, again, to support a cause that was near and dear.

Today I had the opportunity to spend some time with McGillivray to hear about his experiences running across the country, as well as, get some much-needed advice for my transcontinental run in March. Back in 1978, he didn't have all the technology options, or "toys" as he calls them, available, nor did they have the same fancy shoes, gear, and nutrition we have today, yet, he still managed to get it done in 80 straight days.

Interesting Takeaways

  1. Dave ran in 10-mile intervals, but would them fast, as quick at 7:15/min miles. He would do three of these intervals, or 30 miles, before lunchtime.
  2. He stayed in a "motorhome" the entire way. No hotels, many times simply pulling over the RV, locking the doors, and staying there until the next morning.
  3. Dave got up each morning at 5:30 a.m. and was running by 6:30, Every. Single. Day.
  4. He had a crew of 3 other guys who, while Dave was running, would tend to the needs of the RV, gather groceries, do laundry and deal with other necessary tasks.
  5. There was no internet. Dave raised money with a donation jar. He created awareness by talking to people.
  6. Nobody had GPS. No Garmin watches or two-way radios. If Dave got lost, he turned around and ran back to where he made the mistake and continued on.
  7. 99% of the time, people were supportive. Only once did Dave feel threatened "out there" by the behavior of others.
  8. Most importantly, Dave showed up at the beginning of his run fit, with a solid base of run training in the bank, and ready to log the miles.

A Minimalistic Approach

I was inspired by my conversation with Dave McGillivray for many obvious reasons. Here is a man who has accomplished so much, who has done what I have also set out to do, and did it with little style, grace, and purpose; but more than that, he proved it could be done simply with a small, attentive crew, mobile living quarters, and a big dream.

One Foot In Front Of The Other

While my experience will be different because I want to take the time to stop and talk to people, share my story, and raise money to fight child abuse, I still get caught up in the logistics.

Yes, planning is important, obviously, and Dave reiterated this point with some real straight-talk, but there is also beauty in knowing that at the end of the day, after all the media is gone, the auditorium empty, and the social media updated, it's just me, a pair of shoes, and the open road.

Just one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, repeat 6,600,000 times.