Okotoks runner David Proctor has stopped his cross-Canada trek to raise money for rare disease research due to a herniated disc.
Proctor announced on Saturday he would have to stop his run, which started on June 27 in Victoria. He stopped on July 27 east of Winnipeg.
A painful decision, but family and long-term health come first for the 37-year-old father who is raising three children with his wife Sharon.
“My concern is am I going to be of any use to my family if I am in chronic pain the rest of my life? And if I’m angry, I can’t move, and I can’t work — I work on my feet all day,” said Proctor in an interview July 28. “I have to look out for my family.
“I woke up this morning and I was frustrated, I want this… it is a sinking feeling, but what has been uplifting has been the messages on social media thanking me and telling me I have made a good choice.”
His initial goal was to run from Victoria, B.C. to St. John’s N.L. in 66 days, breaking the record set by Al Howie of 72 days.
Proctor also hoped to raise $1 million for the Rare Disease Foundation. His son, Sam, a student at Okotoks’ St. Mary’s School, has RECA, a rare disease, which affects his balance and mobility.
Proctor, a massage therapist, had some back pain prior to starting his run. The pain grew worse. Black Diamond chiropractor Dr. Greg Morris flew out on Tuesday to train Proctor’s support staff, including Okotoks’ Wayne and Trish Gaudet, on giving laser treatment.
Proctor did have initial success after the treatment.
In fact, on Thursday he felt he was nearly back to normal after a 60km day.
“My hopes were really up, I thought this was it, I can be on the laser and handle my inflammation,” Proctor said.
However, he experienced pain later that night.
“It was right next to my spine, it was very different and excruciating pain,” Proctor said. “I tried running (on Friday) the pain was terrible.”
The decision to stop the run was made later that night. He found something more effective than laser treatment to comfort him — a cuddle.
“Sam likes to cuddle — we were cuddling and I kind of broke down when I told him I couldn’t complete this for him,” Proctor said. “He was very compassionate. He said: ‘Hey Dad, you tried your best.’
“That was quite uplifting to hear.”
The comments from people having, or having a loved one with, a rare disease has also lifted Proctor’s spirits.
“Every single day I am getting all these messages from the rare disease community from families with kids with rare diseases and finding out how much this means to them,” Proctor said.
“Here I am looking at my neurological pain and thinking I can always work harder and work through my pain — I can always take a little bit more.
“But I have received all these messages on social media thanking me and telling me I have made a good choice… every single message I receive I am feeling uplifted, not just as a runner who failed to run across the country, but as a father who has a child with a rare disease.”
“Speaking for other families who have kids with rare diseases, for the first time in their lives, we have retained backing for us — that is very uplifting.”
Proctor will continue his fundraising efforts despite having to call off the run. He will attend fundraising ceremonies across the country. He is also urging all Canadians to donate the miles they run to the cause.
“I medically cannot run across Canada anymore,” Proctor said.
“This is a call to action. I have asked the entire
running community across Canada to go to our website and go on the virtual Run With Dave on our homepage and you can donate your miles… If you walk donate your miles that would be great.
“I only made it to Winnipeg, so I still have 4,800 miles to go. Donate those miles to the Rare Disease Foundation. Let’s complete our goal and then let’s run back. When we get to St. John’s, let’s turn around and get back to Victoria.”
A small donation can be made with those miles.
To donate to the effort go to outrunrare.com. At present Proctor has raised close to $200,000.
Proctor’s fundraising efforts got a boost when he received a $50,000 cheque from TD Canada Trust in Okotoks on Thursday through the bank’s national Ready Commitment, an effort to celebrate local heroes in communities.
“Dave was one of those local heroes, “ said Karas Wright, Okotoks TD Canada Trust branch manager. “Leslie Moffett [with the Okotoks branch]brought Dave’s story to my attention and I took that over to our regional manager and said, ‘You know what, Dave is doing some pretty amazing things. We would like to see if there was a way to highlight him.’”
It found 50,000 ways to highlight him.
Karas got the opportunity to run on Proctor’s first day of running back on June 27.
“I was with Dave on Day 1 and got to run with him for awhile,” Wright said. “I am runner but nowhere near like Dave. I am working towards a half-marathon… I was able to keep up for a couple of kilometres, but there is no way I have the endurance he has.”
Dave’s parents, Nancy and Randy and his brother Dan were at the celebration at the Okotoks branch on Thursday.
Mom was bursting with pride.
“What he is doing is to raise money for Outrunrare,” she said while tearing up. “I am not surprised he is doing this. His family is everything and he is doing it for his family.”