Back injury ends runner Dave Proctor's cross Canada speed attempt in Manitoba

Donna Spencer, THE CANADIAN PRESS
July 30, 2018
Written by Donna Spencer, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Dave Proctor's quest to set a speed record running across Canada is over because of a debilitating back injury.

The 37-year-old from Okotoks, Alta., who is raising money for rare disease research, halted his run east of Winnipeg where a sign marks the longitudinal centre of the country.

"I got there and probably got a mile past it, which I know sounds ridiculous," a dejected Proctor told The Canadian Press. "Everything was blowing up right around there. My nerve pain got
different and worse and more centralized."

After managing 13 kilometres of a planned 108-kilometre day, Proctor consulted with his medical and support teams Friday night and made the decision to stop.

The pain of a herniated disc and a narrowing of his spinal column had not only deprived him of needed sleep during the week, but Proctor said more dangerous symptoms were arising in his urinary and digestive systems.

Proctor's physiotherapist and chiropractor had flown to Manitoba to treat Proctor with a laser, but relief was temporary. He said he could no longer ignore the medical red flags.

"It's gotten to a point where when I'm not running I'm relatively crippled," he said. "The only way to really heal it is complete rest and treatment. The idea of continually running over a hundred kilometres a day is in my opinion impossible at this point and not a good choice."

Proctor dipped his white cowboy hat into the Pacific Ocean in Victoria on June 27 with the intention of breaking the cross-country running record of 72 days 10 hours set by Al Howie in 1991.

An accomplished ultramarathoner who owns the Canadian record in the 24-hour road race, Proctor believed himself capable of reaching St. John's N.L., in 66 days.

His objective is to raise over $1 million for the Rare Disease Foundation. He was closing in on $200,000 this week. His nine-year-old son Sam has a rare disease that affects his mobility.

"Number one, I'm really sad. I do believe I was capable of breaking the trans-Canadian speed record and running across Canada," Proctor said.

"Number two is I'm embarrassed. I feel like I threw this all out there and it didn't happen. I'll be known as the guy who couldn't even get across Manitoba and that hurts."

"The rare disease community has really extended themselves. I've received countless messages and families living with rare disease meeting me at the side of the road with signs and messages and cards.

"I feel like I've let them down. It's a sickening feeling. It breaks my heart."

Wayne Gaudet, an ultramarathoner on Proctor's support team, tried to comfort him pointing out that Canadian hero Terry Fox was forced to stop his 1980 Marathon of Hope in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Fox was running from the east coast to the west on an artificial leg raising money for cancer research, when the cancer that took his leg returned and ultimately claimed his life.

Proctor remains committed to rare-disease awareness and research.

The father of three children intends to continue driving east in the recreational vehicle leased for the run and fulfil his scheduled promotional stops at sponsor Staples.

He asks Canada's running community to go to outrunrare.com and pledge the kilometres they run daily to finish the distance for him.

"Let's show the rare disease community how many runners now know the needs of their families and tell them that they matter," said Proctor, who hasn't ruled out another future attempt.

"This really hurts, but I do also understand I've learned a hell of a lot out here. I would be so much more equipped the next round, so never say never.

"As it stands right now, it's going to take awhile to heal these wounds."

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