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Dave Proctor’s cross-Canada trip ends in Halifax with mixed emotions

Ultrarunner whose cross-Canada speed record quest was curtailed by a back injury will now fly home to Calgary for treatment

Photo: Sharon Proctor

It was a bittersweet ending for ultrarunner Dave Proctor and the Outrun Rare team, who officially ended their cross-Canada trip in Halifax yesterday. Proctor, who started running in Victoria on June 27, was on a quest for the cross-Canada speed record while also raising awareness for rare diseases, but made it just past Winnipeg before pain from a back injury sustained before the trip forced him to stop running on July 28. He had covered more than 2,400K.


RELATED: Dave Proctor gets attention for rare diseases at Parliament Hill meeting

Dr. Christine Chambers, Canada Research Chair in Children’s Pain and a Killam Professor in the departments of Pediatrics and Psychology & Neuroscience at Dalhousie University spoke at a press conference in Halifax as a friend of Outrun Rare, sharing a statement by Isabel Jordan, co-founder and chair of Outrun Rare: “I’ve seen rare disease patients and families make new connections with each other and with our organization… But even more, Dave has helped people who haven’t been impacted with rare disease, the ‘typical Canadians,’ realize the barriers faced by the one in 12 directly impacted and their families. He’s galvanized their compassion for those of us that have fallen through the cracks in Canada’s health care system. Like Dave Proctor, I think this is just the beginning.”

Proctor decided not to dip his trademark Smithbilt cowboy hat in the Atlantic as originally planned, since, as he says, he expected to end the trip in Newfoundland, not Halifax. Neurological damage resulting from his untreated herniated disk forced the decision to wrap up the trip a week early and fly back to Calgary, where he will begin treatment. Proctor says it remains to be seen whether he’ll require surgery.

“We are nowhere close to being done,” says Proctor of the effort to raise awareness and push policymakers for a national rare disease strategy. He also didn’t rule out the prospect of another attempt at the cross-Canada run. Proctor holds the 24-hour, 48-hour and 72-hour Canadian records for continuous running. The cross-Canada speed record is held by Al Howie, who ran across Canada in 72 days in 1991. 


Proctor founded Outrun Rare to raise awareness of rare diseases, of which there are approximately 8,000 different varieties affecting one in 12 Canadians. His 9-year-old son Sam has relapsing encephalopathy with cerebellar ataxia (RECA), a neurological condition that affects movement and coordination. It was more than six years before the family got an accurate diagnosis.

More information on Outrun Rare can be found at www.outrunrare.com. Runners have until August 31 to pledge kilometres on the site’s virtual run, which has well over 50,000 kilometres pledged “We can take this to the government and say look, people do care about this,” Proctor says. “It sends a strong message, and runners are making a big difference. We all know how hard running is, but families with rare diseases have it much worse.”