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Ultrarunner Dave Proctor recovered and running again

Proctor, whose bid for a cross-Canada speed record was curtailed by a herniated disk in August, is greatly recovered and has big race plans for the coming year

Dave Proctor

Yesterday was Dave Proctor’s 38th birthday, and to celebrate, he did what he does every year: run his age in kilometres. Not such an usual thing, except that Proctor had to first recover from severe back pain from a herniated disk, after his attempt at a cross-Canada speed record was cut short in August.

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

Proctor’s big goal for 2018 was to beat Al Howie’s 1991 cross-Canada speed record while raising money for Outrun Rare, the charity he co-founded to raise funds and awareness for rare diseases. (His son Sam has RECA–relapsing encephalopathy with cerebellar ataxia–a rare disease characterized by motor and gait abnormalities that first manifested itself when he was a toddler and took six years to diagnose.)

Proctor in Halifax after ending his run. Photo: Sharon Proctor

Proctor started out in Victoria on June 27, but was in pain almost from the beginning of the run. An MRI in Brandon, Man. revealed the herniated disk, and by the time Proctor reached northern Ontario in late July, he was in too much pain to continue without risking serious and possibly permanent damage. He had also experienced a narrowing of his central spinal column by 70 per cent, leading to a condition known as cauda equina syndrome, which can be very serious, but from which Proctor’s extreme fitness allowed him to recover relatively quickly.  

Proctor on the road with his crew in Alberta

Three months later, Proctor says he is still not fully out of the woods, but much better, thanks to physiotherapy, massage, chiropractic, physiatry, basically all of the tools for rehabilitation that he could access. “Holy moly, it took a lot of work,” says Proctor. “You’re basically doing exercises for two, three, four hours a day.” But he was thankful to have been able to avoid surgery, which was a definite possibility if he did not return to Calgary for treatment when he did. “I still have a bit of pain and tightness when I run, but very little,” Proctor says. “I need to run a bit more, to strengthen the tissues around it.” 


Proctor has some exciting ultrarunning plans lined up for 2019, to be announced as early as next week. The one thing he would share was that he’s signed up for Big’s Backyard Ultra, inspired by Johann Steene and Courtney Dauwalter’s performances at this year’s race in Tennessee.