Canadian ultrarunner Dave Proctor of Okotoks, Alta. is about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. He will attempt to run 7,200K across Canada, starting early Wednesday morning in Victoria, B.C., with two ambitious goals in mind: to break the 27-year-old Guinness cross-Canada speed record, and to raise more than $1 million for research into rare diseases.
The reason for Proctor’s run is personal: his 9-year-old son Sam has relapsing encephalopathy with cerebellar ataxia (RECA for short), an extremely rare neurological condition that affects movement and coordination. Sam is high-functioning and of normal intelligence, but gets around with a walker, and his speech is affected. If he suffers a relapse, he could lose all movement.
Proctor has some experience in setting running records: he holds the 24-hour, 48-hour and 72-hour Canadian records for ultra running. The previous cross-Canada record of 72 days was set in 1991 by Al Howie. Proctor plans to do it in 66 days, covering an average of 108K per day.
“I will run to the end of the earth for my son,” says Proctor, who has partnered with the Rare Disease Foundation for the project, which, thanks to widespread media coverage has already raised $95,000 before the run even starts.
Catching up on #news of the day. Thx @calgaryherald & @calgarysun for supporting @OutrunRare @rarediseasefdn #crosscanadarun #outrunrare2018 #daveoutrunsrare #1in12 #rareiseverywhere pic.twitter.com/tkoN72IAUF
— Dave Proctor (@runproctor) June 23, 2018
“Typically the foundation is able to raise about a quarter of a million dollars a year,” says Proctor. “And our fundraising goal, which is a million, I have a feeling is going to be more like two to five million in the end.”
“One in 12 Canadians are affected by a rare disease,” he goes on, “and rare disease diagnosis in Canada takes five years.” Though these diseases are rare, there are more than 8,000 known rare diseases. In Sam’s case, the diagnosis took more than six years.
Proctor has been doing three or four 50 to 80K runs per week to train for the distance. His wife and three children will “crew” for him in an RV throughout the trip. Whereas Al Howie ran the Fraser Valley route, Proctor plans to take the Coquihalla Highway route, which is less exposed to traffic and therefore safer. When he gets to Ontario, he’ll pass through North Bay as opposed to taking the more northerly route, just for the chance to connect with more people along the way.
Proctor talks about the other challenge in ultra running. Not only is high volume and inflammation an issue, but getting (and keeping) food down throughout the day. “The challenge isn’t just the running,” says. “It’s being able to eat 10,000 calories per day while running.”
We plan to check in with Proctor from time to time as he makes his way across the country. Readers can track his progress or make a donation at his website, www.outrunrare.com.