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Law professor Maggie Finnerty aims to raise $10G for rare heart disorder research

June 17, 2010

Last year, Maggie Finnerty, executive director and clinical law professor for the clinic, ran the Timberline Marathon as a fundraiser for the Heart Rhythm Foundation. This month, she’s training for the Pacific Crest Half Ironman race.  Here, she shares her motivation and the challenges she’s facing to accomplish her goal.

As many of you know, 28 years ago, my 20-year-old brother Kevin died in his sleep.  Kevin was a college football player in perfect health, and the doctors had no idea why he died.  Fourteen months later, my 15-year-old brother Timmy died in his sleep.  Timmy was a high school track and football star.  For over 20 years, we never knew why either of them died.

But six years ago, my mother was diagnosed with a heart condition called non-sustained ventricular tachycardia.  This condition causes the heart to race, so it can no longer efficiently pump blood, and can cause a person to pass out and die immediately.  The doctors are certain that this is what killed Kevin and Timmy.

There is still no definitive diagnostic test for the condition–so “just in case” most of my immediate family (including my brother, four sisters, two nephews, and one niece) and I have had defibrillators and pacemakers implanted.

I received my defibrillator six years ago, and began raising money for the Heart Rhythm Foundation (HRF). My first race was the Pacific Crest Half Ironman in 2005; I raised about $12,000 that year. Since then, I’ve run two marathons on behalf of the HRF, raising about $5,000 for each marathon.

This year is a big milestone for me…I am turning 40 in June, and decided such a big birthday deserves a big race…so I started thinking about doing the Pacific Crest Half Ironman again. But this is a HUGE commitment–the race involves a 1.2 mile swim, followed by a 58 mile VERY hilly bike ride, finishing with a 13.1 mile run…it will take place at altitude, and it will likely be very hot.  This is not an easy feat!

I wasn’t sure if I could do it, so I began quietly training 3 months ago.  It had been five years (and 20 pounds!) since I did this race, and I had a lot of work to do.  Even though I’m still not sure I will fit into my wetsuit, I know that my training has come along enough to know that I will be able to finish the race!

Read more about Maggie’s effort and how Lewis & Clark colleagues can support her in the race: