New England is very much a ‘love-it-or-hate-it’ kind of place. It has a feeling of intensity; a competitive aura visibly poignant during hometown sporting events and understatedly so in day-to-day conflicts among its denizens. The volatile climate prompts locals to shrug their shoulders and get on with the day; seeking attention or crying uncle is for the weak. Some people become disenchanted with this seemingly hostile environment. But some, like renowned event manager and Medford, MA native Dave McGillivray, embody all of the passion, energy, and humility that the region represents.
McGillivray burst onto the national running scene in 1978 when he ran across the country – from Medford, OR to Medford, MA (as shown in the feature picture) – to raise money for cancer research at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through the Jimmy Fund. Since then, he has become one of the world’s premier race directors and an internationally acclaimed athlete, author, motivational speaker and philanthropist. Thousands of Boston Marathon finishers owe part of their achievement to him, and dozens of charitable causes owe him their gratitude – but few people know who he is to thank.
As the President and Founder of Dave McGillivray Sports Enterprises, Inc., McGillivray epitomizes the notion that running can be a catalyst for broader goals. Cut from his middle school baseball and basketball teams, McGillivray started running at the age of 12. The butterfly effect resulting from this seemingly innocuous decision is being felt by thousands even today.
After completing his charitable cross-country trek, McGillivray opened a clothing and footwear store in Medford, Mass. He started organizing events to promote the business and quickly realized that he enjoyed that aspect of his job more than actually working in retail. DMSE Sports, Inc. was born in 1981.
Since then, McGillivray has been involved with directing more than 900 athletic events. The 1990 Triathlon World Championship, the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, the 1998 Goodwill Games and the 2004 and 2008 U.S. Olympic Women’s Marathon Trials all grace his resume.
An obvious choice for a hometown hero, McGillivray has coordinated the Boston Athletic Association Boston Marathon, the oldest and arguably most prestigious marathon in the world, since 1971 and served as Race Director since 2001.
And, like millions before him, he runs the Hopkinton-to-Boston course every year. Except, he does it at night. After ensuring that everything has, inevitable, run smoothly.
“They say the Boston Marathon is the Holy Grail of marathons,” says McGillivray. “It has a history and tradition like no other marathon in the world. We pride ourselves on producing a well-managed event. Everyone who runs must ‘earn the right’ to do so, and as such, we feel we have an obligation and responsibility to give them the best experience humanly possible.”
True to his words, those within the running community know that running, particularly distance running, is so much more than pounding the pavement.
“My ultimate goal is to give others a greater’ chance’ in life to achieve, to accomplish and to feel better about themselves,” says McGillivray.
The impact that McGillivray has had on peoples’ lives, directly and indirectly, is immeasurable. It only takes one decision – one click of a mouse to sign up for a race – to become motivated to live a happier and healthier life.
“The walls of intimidation have crumbled. People are believing in themselves. Running has a way of raising self-esteem and self-confidence. This is the foundation for everything else you do in life. Besides the health benefits of running, feeling good about yourself is the most important byproduct of running,” says McGillivray.
DMSE Sports, Inc. handles all of the logistical, technical and operational aspects of producing an event. This includes getting the proper permission, which McGillivray describes as often the single most difficult part of directing an event. DMSE Sports, Inc. also works to secure sponsorships and fundraising, often a challenge given the competition for companies to underwrite the costs for various events.
The process is significantly more labor-intensive than most people would think, but McGillivray stays organized with help from his team of equally dedicated individuals.
“I have a great team now… many of whom have been with me for 20-plus years. The trick is surrounding yourself with a lot of good, dependable people.”
Delegating some of this work has allowed McGillivray to train for distance events, any of which would command attention as a singular, significant moment in a person’s career. With 126 marathons and eight Ironman triathlons under his belt, McGillivray has racked up more than a typical lifetime’s worth of athletic achievements.
He ran 1,250 miles from Winter Haven, FL to Boston in 1980 to raise money for the Jimmy Fund; triathaloned 1,522 miles throughout the six New England States in 1981, raising $55,000 for the Jimmy Fund; amassed $10,000 to donate to the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, MA when he ran the 1982 Boston Marathon while blindfolded; supported the Jimmy Fund by swimming for 24 consecutive hours in the Medford High School Pool in 1983.
And, he runs the number of miles that corresponds to his age each year on or around his birthday.
More than showcasing his feats of athleticism, McGillivray’s ultra distance competitions have raised over $50 million for various charities, including the Jimmy Fund, the Carroll Center for the Blind, Cystic Fibrosis, Lazarus House, Massachusetts Dietetic Association, Massachusetts Special Olympics, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Sports Museum of New England, and the Wrentham State School.
McGillivray also works to support the DMSE Children’s Fitness Foundation, a charity that he founded in 2004 that strives to end childhood obesity by supporting programs that promote healthy lifestyles.
“I’ve always felt that when you give, you receive even more in return. Giving is easy and it becomes a way to feel good about yourself, especially when times might be personally challenging,” says McGillivray.
McGillivray’s most recent charitable event was the Run for the Dream Half Marathon and 8K, held in Williamsburg, Va. on May 21-22. The race benefitted An Achievable Dream and The Wounded Warriors Project. Though the event was wildly successful, McGillivray will be the first to admit that first-time events are often the most challenging because they have to be produced from scratch.
The newer events, however, by no means elicit less excitement than the more established road races. In particular, McGillivray is looking forward to the Harvard Pilgrim 10K on July 4 and the Run Gloucester! 7-mile road race on August 21, both of which are in their second year.
The two summer races offer scenic views of some of Massachusetts’ most picturesque landscape– and the Harvard Pilgrim 10K finishes on the 50-yard line at the Patriots’ Gillette Stadium. The races’ warm weather will be a far cry from the never-ending nor’easters that plagued the region this winter. Not that the latter point is of great consequence to McGillivray, however.
“I actually think adverse conditions is a good thing,” he says of the brutal season. “They prepare us for the worst… Weather is weather; we all face weather challenges so no use complaining about it. I just take it all in stride and say ‘bring it on.’”
That staunch persistence has brought McGillivray numerous prestigious honors. He was inducted into the Triathlon Hall of Fame earlier this year and Running USA’s Hall of Champions in 2005. In 2007, McGillvray was named the “Hero of Running” by Runner’s World magazine. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Competitor Magazine in 2000. And, his direction in the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K earned him a national award from Road Race Management later that year.
But, he’s not finished.
“I never want to live off my laurels and always want to look ahead and strive to do and accomplish more.”
Spoken like a true runner.
Kelly Laffey ran cross country and track at Wake Forest University. A 2010 graduate, she is pursuing a career in journalism. She loves the freedom associated with running and hopes to compete in her first marathon later this year. Contact her here.