On Monday, one of the running world’s greatest ambassadors will be running the Boston Marathon just six months after having triple bypass surgery. Crazy, you say? Perhaps. But Boston Marathon Race Director, Dave McGillivray, is known for his passion for running. And he wasn’t going to let open heart surgery prevent him from running his 47th consecutive Boston.

“Before I went into surgery I asked my heart surgeon. I said, ‘the marathon is in six months….what do you think.’ He had the best response. He didn’t say yes and he didn’t say no. But he said, I’d be extremely disappointed if you couldn’t. Well, I grabbed on that one…and went for it. I said, ‘ok there’s hope.’”

Dave is considered by many to be the heart and soul of the marathon, sharing that honor with others like running champions Bill Rodgers, Johnny Kelley and Joan Benoit Samuelson. He has been involved with the marathon for decades and now oversees the race from start to finish. His main priority is the safety and success of all the runners, especially the 30,000 people who are running Boston for the first time. But after the race is over, Dave will start out from Hopkinton and set out on one of the biggest challenges of his life.

“Knowing what I’m up against...I’ll be patient. It won’t be my personal best but it will be perhaps the most significant one...hopefully when I cross the finish line.”

Dave first became aware of his health problems back in 2013 when he started having trouble breathing during his runs. He went to Mass General and discovered he had coronary artery disease. But like running, he tackled the problem head on and believed he had reversed the disease by implementing lifestyle changes.

“Then in February a year ago I could feel it come back again so I went back to Mass General. They did another angiogram and they found I had severe blockage in my main artery and I had to undergo open heart triple bypass surgery in October.”

Dave is hoping to bring awareness to heart disease. He believes athletes can often be in denial. And he wants other runners to read the signs that something could be wrong.

“I learned a tough lesson that that’s not the case. So, my mission is to create an awareness and let other people know it can happen to anyone [because] some of us think we are invincible, but we are not.”

He will be running the marathon to raise money for the Joseph Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation. Joey was six years old when he died from cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle. Dave has become buddies with Joey’s brother Jack who had to have a heart transplant himself. Jack calls Dave his fellow heart warrior.

And what about the future? Dave says he’s not one to stand still while the grass grows under his feet. He’s always looking for a new challenge. Last year he competed in the World Marathon Challenge where he ran seven marathons on all seven continents in seven days. He says he wants to be an “accomplisher.” In 1978 he ran across the United States for the Jimmy Fund. Now he may bike across the country so that he can be the first person to do both.

For now, he’s preparing for the biggest challenge of his life; finishing his 47th Boston Marathon. After all, he says,
“Boston is the Holy Grail, the Superbowl, the Kentucky Derby, the World Series and Tour de France of our sport.”

See you in Copley Square Monday night, Dave.