Hal Finney’s Marathon story
Hal Finney was a runner. He was also a loving husband. A caring father. A concerned brother. A talented computer programmer. A good-natured friend.
Hal Finney was an achiever. He always figured a way to reach his goals. In 2006 Hal decided he would lose some weight – and would do that by running. He decided he would run in the Boston Marathon.
Hal began running farther and faster. He trained with joy. He ran all over Santa Barbara. Every business and pleasure trip he took was an opportunity to run new terrain. He entered longer and longer races. He lost weight. He got stronger. He inspired his wife, Fran, who had given up running because of her arthritis, to rediscover the joy of running. In winter 2009, Hal signed up for the Los Angeles and Santa Barbara Marathons. Goal: Boston 2010.
Then everything stopped working. Hal was getting weaker. He couldn’t run as fast or far. His speech slurred. He started choking.
On August 5, 2009, Hal was diagnosed with ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a disease that causes paralysis of all voluntary muscles, including the muscles that control swallowing and breathing. The median survival for this disease (without intervention) is less than 2 years, although some people have a slower progression. There is no treatment available that can halt or reverse ALS. However, modern technologies such as assisted breathing and feeding help people with ALS to survive once they can no longer breathe or eat on their own.
Hal’s progression has been rapid. By November 2009 he could no longer run. He slowly walked the last two miles of the 2009 Santa Barbara Marathon with a cane, to raise money for ALS research. As he crossed the finish line, Hal burst into tears. It was a very emotional day.
By early 2010 Hal was not able to walk at all. His entire body grew weaker and stiffer. He started aspirating food and had a feeding tube put into his stomach. Speech became more and more difficult.
Despite his ALS Hal continued to enjoy life. He counted the days to the Santa Barbara International Marathon, and in December 2010 he crossed the finish line again – this time in his wheelchair.
Hal is still a husband, father, brother, and friend. In his heart and in his dreams, he is also a runner. He cannot walk, talk, eat or use his hands in a normal way. His breathing is labored. He had a tracheostomy, which allows him to breathe through an opening in his neck. He uses a ventilator. He needs other people to keep him alive and well. But Hal continues to enjoy life. With a passion. His goals: Stay alive. Relish every life experience. And cross the SBIM finish line again.
To learn more about the fight against ALS Lou Gehrig’s Disease, please visit www.als-mda.org/disease/als.html.