Alberta runner attempts cross-Canada speed record to fill 'void' in rare disease support
Ultramarathoner Dave Proctor's son has a relapsing illness that needs more research
Dave Proctor will soon dip his white cowboy hat into the Pacific Ocean and start his quest to run to the Atlantic in record time.
Proctor intends to break the speed record for running across Canada, which is currently 72 days 10 hours — set by Al Howie in 1991.
"My goal is 66 days," Proctor said. "I'm going to break the trans-Canadian speed record by six days."
Proctor starts at dawn on June 27 in Victoria.
He's an ultramarathoner, running races longer than the standard 42.2-kilometre marathon. The 37-year-old from Okotoks, Alta., excels at mega-distances.
In May 2016, Proctor set a Guinness world record for the longest distance run on a stationary treadmill over a 24-hour period when he covered 260.40 kilometres at the Calgary Marathon Expo. Australia's Luca Turrini broke the mark a year later with a distance of 261.18 kilometres.
If you live with a rare disease in Canada, you fall into a void where there's not a lot of support.- Dave Proctor on raising funds for rare diseases
Proctor is the Canadian record-holder in the 24-hour road race at 257.093 km, which he set with a sixth-place finish at the 2015 world championship in Italy.
In 2017, Proctor won the 160-kilometre Lost Soul Ultra in Lethbridge, Alta., in 19 hours 27 minutes and claimed the 150k title at the Calgary Marathon in 12 hours 18 minutes.
So he's capable of an 108-kilometre day, which is what Proctor said he must average to cover the 7,295-kilometre width of Canada by Aug. 31. But for 66 days in a row?
"It's getting used to being uncomfortable," he said. "That's your new normal."
Terry Fox's footsteps
A typical training week for Proctor includes three to four runs of 50 to 80 kilometres. He's been tapering recently to charge his batteries for the long haul ahead.
He'll take off from Victoria's Mile 0 Terry Fox monument, which honours Fox's attempt to run across the country on a prosthetic leg in 1980 to raise money for cancer research.
The cancer that took Fox's leg forced him to stop near Thunder Bay, Ont., and took the 22-year-old's life the following year.
Howie was 46 years old when he legged it coast to coast, but he started in St. John's, N.L., and ran west.
Howie raised $750,000 for children with special needs. He died in 2016 at age 70.
Proctor's cause is rare diseases. His nine-year-old son Sam has relapsing encephalopathy with cerebellar ataxia, or RECA.
Sam lacks balance and co-ordination and struggles with fine and gross motor skills, his father said.
"Eating, going to the washroom, dressing himself in the morning, all these things take a lot more time than the average person," Proctor said.
Proctor intends to raise over $1 million for the Rare Disease Foundation for research.
"If you live with a rare disease in Canada, you fall into a void where there's not a lot of support," Proctor explained.
"There's over 8,000 known rare diseases and probably just as many unknown rare diseases. Rare is not so rare. There's a lot of rare out there.
"I want the Rare Disease Foundation to be linked to a record that's going to stand many, many, many decades. I believe that Al Howie back in 1991, he had a similar thought. That's what records are for. You kindly make it difficult for the next person to do."
Proctor's cowboy hat — adorned with an orange feather symbolizing of his cause — is a runner-friendly design by Smithbilt Hats Inc. in Calgary.
He can store ice in the crown on hot days and has a waterproof version to wear.
"I'm going to be wearing it every single step across this country," Proctor said.
Whipped cream diet
Proctor calculates he'll require 10,000 calories per day, which is the equivalent of a pound of bacon. Liquid whipped cream will be a staple in his diet.
"It's really quite gross to just drink it. I thought it was going to be good, but it really wasn't good," Proctor said. "But put it in smoothies, coffee and your oatmeal in the morning, it's glorious stuff."
He has more than a dozen physiotherapists lined up across the country to treat him in his recreational support vehicle.
Proctor's support crew includes his wife Sharon and fellow-ultramarathoner Wayne Gaudet of Okotoks. Proctor plans for his three children to join them when they reach Calgary on July 6.
In the ultramarathon world, multi-day races of 100 kilometres per day are common.
Where Proctor is pushing the endurance envelope is attempting to sustain that pace for more than two months, said Canadian Ultramarathon Association president Armand Leblanc.
"As long as you don't get injuries, then it's fine. It's doable," Leblanc said. "He's been training hard. I've seen the training he's been doing for the last few months.
"The distance is there, the pace is there also, but to maintain that pace is going to be tough."
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