Crazy for a Reason

Crossing Canada is a labour of love for endurance runner Dave Proctor


Dave’s 2020 attempt has been postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19 precautions. Key members of the Outrun Rare team, namely Travis and Ashley Schiller-Brown, scheduled to accompany Dave Proctor across Canada starting May 18, 2020 during his TransCanadian speed record attempt, have designed a community-focused event to bring the global running community together. The event, Personal Peak Quarantine Backyard Ultra is free and completed in self-isolation or quarantine, streamed live on Youtube, with the largest, most competitive field ever assembled! The last person standing will receive The Golden Toilet Paper Roll! 

When: The first bell will ring at 7:00am MT on Saturday April 4, 2020, and the race will finish when there is only one runner left on the livestream. 

View the live YouTube feeds: 

Original March/April 2020 Running Issue Story Below

Dave Proctor
Photo: Neil Zeller

On May, 18, 2020, endurance athlete Dave Proctor of Okotoks, AB will dip his cowboy hat into the harbour at Quidi Vidi, NFLD and start running. He’ll cover 105 km every day until he reaches Victoria, BC and the Pacific Ocean.

It might sound like a crazy idea, but Proctor is preparing to break the speed record of 72 days and 10 hours set by Al Howie in 1991 and plans to finish his odyssey in 67 days. Along the way, he hopes to raise $1 million for the Rare Disease Foundation.

Three years ago, Proctor’s son Sam, was diagnosed with relapsing encephalopathy with cerebellar ataxia (RECA), a rare neurological disease that affects his mobility and causes muscle weakness. Sam is one of only 20 people in the world with RECA.

“It took six years to get a diagnosis and as a father, it was an incredibly painful, heartbreaking process,” Proctor says. “I started wondering what I could do to create awareness about rare diseases and better support medical professionals.”

“I’m a massage therapist, I have a limited skill set. But I can run! I can create a movement.”

Proctor, 39, can indeed run and holds records for numerous endurance races. (see sidebar.) And, in 2017, he created a non-profit organization called Outrun Rare to increase awareness about rare diseases and raise funds.

“Did you know Canada is the only country in the developed world without a Rare Disease strategy?” Proctor asks. “I want to use my run to create a conversation about this.”

This will be Proctor’s second attempt at a cross-Canada odyssey. In the spring of 2018, he hit the road in Victoria, B.C., but a nagging back injury saw him stop short of his goal.

For his challenge to succeed, everything has to go right. He’ll be running every day so managing his health, rest, nutrition and preventing injuries are paramount as he won’t be able to take a day off mid-run if he wants to break the record.

“I’ll be taking in between 8,000 and 10,000 calories a day – it’s almost more of an eating contest,” he jokes, explaining that sometimes he gets so full, it’s difficult to keep ingesting more calories.

He’ll be accompanied by a crew of six who will be travelling ahead and waiting at specific intervals for him to catch up and grab anything he needs.

Most of Proctor’s route is directly along the TransCanada Highway. The most challenging part of the run comes in the last three days when he has to climb the hills of the Coquihalla Highway, gaining and losing significant elevation. Beyond that, he feels the most difficult part will be between northern Ontario and Alberta.

“There’s basically nothing out there!” Proctor laughs.

Dave Proctor
Photo: Neil Zeller

Running most of the route alone will mean Proctor has to find ways to make the time pass. He’s a big Blue Jays fan and hopes to tune in to games. He’s also planning to listen to various podcasts and call friends. And of course he’ll be playing lots of music – mostly inspired by the regions along his route.

In addition to meeting the goals of Outrun Rare, Proctor is working with Dr. Aneal Khan from Discovery DNA, a Calgary neurologist-geneticist who will be studying how his DNA changes as he makes his way across Canada.

Proctor already knows one thing that’s going to change – his heart. When he ran in 2018, he was studied by a cardiologist who did frequent MRI’s and other tests.

“At the beginning I was pumping 8.2 litres per minute through my left ventricle at rest,” Proctor says. “After the run, I was pumping 14.4 litres per minute at rest so my heart grew and adapted. It would literally shake the bed when it beat!”

Another thing Proctor is prepared for this time, is that initial week when his body begins to adapt to the rigours of the pace.

“Last time the first seven days were terrible,” says Proctor. “My skin, muscles, tendons everything just felt awful. But around seven or eight days in, I actually felt good! By the time I got into Calgary, I was on fire! This time I know I just have to get the first few days out of the way.”

“Distance running can be physically uncomfortable but that’s about management,” he says. “It isn’t real pain. Real pain was when my son was diagnosed.”

Preparing for his cross-Canada odyssey has Proctor training daily with coach Travis Schiller-Brown. Right now they’re doing speedwork and building up to 150 miles per week. Proctor says he won’t run more than that before beginning his journey.

“Part of me is the athlete that just wants to crush it,” says Proctor. “Al Howie was a god. If it was hard for him it will be hard for anyone.”

Dave Proctor, Ultra-Runner

  • Two Time Canadian Ultra-Marathon Champion
  • Member of the Canadian National 24 Hour World Championship Team
  • Winner of numerous 100 km, 150 km and 100 mile races in Canada and the U.S. including the Calgary Marathon, Sinister 7, Desert Solstice, Blackfoot 100 and others
  • 37th at the World 100 km Championships IAU in Doha, Qatar (2014)
  • 6th at the 24 Hour World Championship in Turin, Italy (2015)
  • 2016 Guinness World Record for furthest distance run on a treadmill in 24 hours – 260.4 km
  • 3rd at the 2019 Big Backyard Ultra – 348.9 km in 38 hours 29 minutes (52 laps)

World Record Holder for Treadmill Running

  • Longest Distance in 12 Hours – 153.8 km
  • Longest Distance in 24 Hours – 260.4 km
  • Fastest 100 miles Time – 12:32:26

Canadian Record Holder

  • Longest Distance Run in 24 hours: 257.093 km (2015)
  • Longest Distance Run in 48 hours: 358.88 km (2019)
  • Longest Distance Run in 72 hours: 500.18 km (2016)

Photography by Neil Zeller