The prospect of pie and a family reunion propelled Dave Proctor along the Trans-Canda Highway as he neared Calgary on his cross-country run.
The 37-year-old from Okotoks, Alta., is attempting to set a speed record crossing the country in 66 days, while raising over a million dollars for the Rare Disease Foundation.
His nine-year-old son Sam has a rare disease affecting his mobility and balance.
Nine days after dipping his cowboy hat into the Pacific Ocean in Victoria, Proctor was scheduled to reach Lake Louise, Alta., on Thursday.
He must average about 108 kilometres per day to reach St. John’s N.L., by Aug. 31, which would beat the record of 72 days 10 hours set by Al Howie in 1991.
Proctor said he was struggling mentally and physically a few days into the run, but felt his body and mind were starting to adapt to the rigours of his undertaking.
“When I get done tonight, I’ve got the most incredible carrot waiting for me,” Proctor told The Canadian Press while running towards Field, B.C.
“I get to have pie with my kids. I get to squeeze my children. I haven’t done that in two weeks. I’ll break down crying if I keep talking about it.”
When Proctor reaches the outskirts of Calgary on Friday, a team of scientists from the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services will poke and prod him to study what mega-mileage is doing to his body and why he’s able to handle it.
His heart, lungs and arteries will be examined and blood drawn to look for signs of inflammation and stress.
“Dave is not an ordinary Joe like we are running and then getting tired,” said Dr. Antoine Dufour, who will collect blood samples from Proctor.
“He’s kind of a super-human if you will. Some things will be quite unusual with him in a good way and we want to find out what that is.”
Dr. James White of the Foothills Medical Centre’s cardiac imaging centre wants to study Proctor’s heart.
“It is certainly of interest to understand how excessive exercise changes the heart and how people like Dave are able to do what they do,” White explained.
“However, the effects of excessive workload on the heart and blood vessels can also tell us a lot about how the heart adapts to certain diseases.
“For example, if one of your heart valves is leaking it can become very similar to running a marathon each day as far as your heart is concerned.
“With Dave we are being given an opportunity to study how the heart changes over time to this kind of workload.”
Proctor’s vascular system of arteries and veins fascinate Dr. Aaron Phillips.
Prior to starting his run, Proctor did a VO2 max test to provide a baseline measurement of how efficiently he uses oxygen while he runs.
“Some of the most interesting results from Dave’s trial was that he doesn’t have a genetically remarkable maximum aerobic capacity, but what he does have is a high threshold where he can exercise at a very intense level without going into what we call borrowed energy supplies,” Phillips said.
“Dave’s able to exercise at an intense level and it’s almost like he’s walking. He could do it all day.”
Since Proctor is running to raise money for research, he was willing to offer up his body for it, albeit different research.
“Research is exactly one of the reasons why rare disease is as big of a struggle as it is right now,” Proctor said.
“I’m a geek and I absolutely love hearing about research like this. When I have the opportunity to be poked and prodded because of really a once-in-a-lifetime thing, absolutely put me on the list.”
Anxiety over what he was attempting disturbed his sleep his first few days on the road. The fatigue altered his stride, which spawned painful tendinitis in his leg.
Proctor admitted to feeling doubtful earlier this week that he could continue, but his optimism was returning Thursday.
“The body now has come to grips in my opinion. Everything is getting into a cycle that’s very manageable,” he said.
“The human body is capable of incredible things. Unfortunately we pull back and pull the plug way too soon before the body creates those adaptive changes.”
The Canadian Press