Alberta ultra-marathoner sets new record after running across Canada in under 68 days

Dave Proctor was overcome with emotion when he reached a cheering crowd of family and supporters at Mile 0 in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, 67 and a half days after he set out on a literal cross-country run from St. John’s, N.L.

The ultra-marathon runner and massage therapist from Okotoks, Alta. appears to be the new holder of the cross-Canada speed record, smashing the previous time of 72 days and 10 hours set by Al Howie in 1991.

“It feels tiring,” Proctor, 41, said with a laugh, when asked how he was feeling after arriving at the finish line in Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park.

“I feel like I’m on top of the world,” he said. “Blessed to have this opportunity and grateful — I’ve just seen the most beautiful country in the world.”

Proud parents

Randy and Nancy Proctor, Dave’s parents, said they were overjoyed to see their son accomplish such a lofty goal.

“Isn’t that incredible?” said Randy. “I didn’t think a human body could do that.”

“I just want to give him the biggest hug ever,” said Nancy, shortly before Dave arrived. “I’m so proud of him.”

Dave Proctor hugs crew leader and girlfriend Lana Ledene after arriving at the finish line in Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park. (Adam van der Zwan/CBC)

This was the runner’s second attempt at beating Howie’s record. He set out in the opposite direction in 2018, dipping his cowboy hat in the Pacific Ocean and leaving from Victoria. But after 32 days on the road, a back injury he suffered just before the run got so bad, he was forced to stop.

“He ruptured a disc the day before he started,” Nancy Proctor said. “He made it on the other side of Winnipeg and finally had to call it quits because his body started rebelling.”

Proctor said the toughest stretch of this year’s run was through Ontario. But a conversation with Fred Fox — brother of athlete Terry Fox, who ran the cross-country Marathon of Hope to raise money for cancer research — and support from friends and crew members who helped him along the way, kept him motivated as he struggled across the province in 20 days.

“Terry Fox has taught … every Canadian just what grit and determination are. And that you can really do anything as long as you just try and give it your all,” he said.

Proctor and his team left on May 15, said Lana Ledene, Proctor’s crew leader and girlfriend. He ran an average of 105 to 107 kilometres per day, mostly along the Trans Canada Highway.

The final leg on Thursday was 34 kilometres from the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal to downtown Victoria, on Vancouver Island. 

“Given that it’s a speed record attempt you want to stay as close as possible to that last route that Al Howie ran in 1991,” said Ledene.

Long list of accomplishments

This is just the latest in Proctor’s long distance running achievements: he also holds Canadian records for the longest distance run in 24, 48 and 72 hours, and a world record for the longest distance run on a treadmill in 12 hours.

Ledene said Proctor trained for years to realize what was a “lifelong dream,” but it also required serious discipline and mental strength.

For 67 days, he woke up at 4 a.m. and ate some oatmeal before heading out on the road. He would run 10 or 20 kilometres at a time and meet his crew to quickly rest and re-fuel.

Ledene says Proctor went through 12 pairs of running shoes and consumed 9,000 calories a day.

In order to keep up his calorie intake, Proctor said he “ate his way from bakery to bakery” as he crossed the country.

“Cinnamon buns and scones, I’m still not sick of it,” he said on Thursday. “I am looking forward to eating a salad tomorrow though.”

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