Home > The Scene

Boston race director undergoes triple bypass surgery

Dave McGillivray, 64, has worked hard to improve his heart health, but had a setback this year

Runners around the world were shocked to see Dave McGillivray, race director of the Boston Marathon, sporting a hospital gown and walker in a tweet yesterday. McGillivray underwent triple bypass surgery last Friday at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital.

McGillivray walks the talk where marathon running is concerned. He runs almost every day, and he has run the Boston Marathon 46 straight times, getting out on the course once the final finishers get to Copley Square and his job as race director is mostly done. Yet, according to a story published last month in Runner’s World, McGillivray has been working hard to manage his heart problems since 2013, when he was diagnosed with severe coronary disease. (It may be no coincidence that the diagnosis came six months after the bombings on Boylston Street that killed three people and injured 264 others.) 

RELATED: Don’t blame exercise for sudden cardiac death, study finds


Dave McGillivray
McGillivray in his earlier years

McGillivray, who is married with five children, took steps to reduce his stress, get more sleep, and improve his diet and fitness, but in the end it turns out his heart issues are largely genetic–and while running is one of the best things you can do to benefit your heart, all the fitness in the world is sometimes not enough to counteract one’s DNA. McGillivray told CBS Boston that both his grandfathers died of heart failure, and his father had aortic stenosis and a quintuple bypass. His sister recently had a triple bypass. One brother had a stroke, another brother has a stent (to help keep cardiac arteries open and reduce the chance of heart attack). 


2013 Boston Marathon Weekend. Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun

The year after his initial diagnosis, McGillivray finished the Kona Ironman World Championships, and his checkups were good. He was pretty sure he’d beaten the risk with his lifestyle changes. But in January of this year he had some discomfort and shortness of breath after participating in the World Marathon Challenge (seven marathons on seven continents in seven days). It continued through the spring, and when he ran the Boston Marathon on April 16, he let a couple of people know there was a defibrillator in his car, just in case.

Though initial heart tests came back negative, an angiogram showed significant blockages in two arteries, and his doctor recommended bypass surgery. The surgery apparently went well, and McGillivray has even received the go-ahead from his doctor to run the Boston course next spring, once he’s recovered and fully fit.

Canadian Running extends best wishes to Dave for a speedy recovery.