The “Running Bitcoin Challenge” charity event, held in honor of early Bitcoin pioneer Hal Finney, is on again. The event raises money for research and treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the disease that ultimately claimed Hal’s life in 2014.
The event, which takes donations in USD and BTC, requires participants to complete the distance of a half-marathon—run, walk or roll, and not necessarily all at once—by the end of January 10, 2023. The Running Bitcoin Challenge is now annual, and this is the second time it will take place.
https://t.co/xpcvzCmtMd Hi everyone, this is Fran Finney, wife of Hal Finney, an early pioneer of Bitcoin. I want to let you know about a special event I'm organizing in honor of my husband. Thank you for all your interest in Hal and your support… he would love it! 1/5
— halfin (@halfin) December 27, 2022
Hal’s name is high in the Bitcoin pantheon as one of the first people to voice support for Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention and for being the first person to receive a Bitcoin transaction from Satoshi. He was, for a time, considered one of the top contenders on the list of potential Satoshis himself (many in blockchain who reject Dr. Craig Wright’s statements still falsely believe Finney to be Bitcoin’s real creator).
He was a regular runner, and according to his wife, Fran Finney, the half-marathon was his favorite distance. There are photographs of them participating in distance running events together long after Finney was confined to a wheelchair. He raised money himself for ALS research in the Santa Barbara International Marathon. Fran is the Honorary Chair of the ALS Association Golden West Chapter in California, which organizes the event.
Hal’s tweet from January 11, 2009, is also legendary in Bitcoin and gives the charity event its name and distance deadline:
— halfin (@halfin) January 11, 2009
“I know Hal would’ve loved the theme of this event,” said Fran in a video. “The funds raised will support the Golden West Chapter’s mission to discover treatments and cures for ALS and to serve and advocate for people affected by ALS.”
Hal, who referred to himself as a “cypherpunk,” was a cryptographic activist who went from developing video games to working on the Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) project in the 1990s. He described his PGP work as “dedicated to the goal of making Big Brother obsolete.” PGP creator Phil Zimmerman hired Hal as his first employee when PGP became PGP Corporation in the early 2000s. He described Hal as a “gregarious man” who loved skiing and long-distance running.
Just a few months after posting his famous Bitcoin tweet, Hal was diagnosed with ALS (also known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease”). The most common type of motor neuron disease, ALS causes sufferers to lose control over voluntary muscle movements and gradually become weaker until they can no longer eat or breathe.
Despite gradual paralysis that eventually forced him to stop working, Hal continued to code software and follow the Bitcoin project. Almost as famous as his 2009 tweet is his “Bitcoin and me” post on BitcoinTalk.org in March 2013, the last he’d ever make. It’s a long post, and Hal was “essentially paralyzed” at the time, using an eye tracker to type. Forum stats show the post has been read over 278,000 times.
“When Satoshi announced the first release of the software, I grabbed it right away,” he wrote. “I think I was the first person besides Satoshi to run bitcoin. I mined block 70-something, and I was the recipient of the first bitcoin transaction when Satoshi sent ten coins to me as a test. I carried on an email conversation with Satoshi over the next few days, mostly me reporting bugs and him fixing them.”
Hal himself always denied being Satoshi Nakamoto, adding later that he’d sold most of the Bitcoins he mined (at pre-2014 prices) to pay for his treatments. He also mentioned putting some in a safe deposit box for his children.
“And, of course, the price gyrations of bitcoins are entertaining to me. I have skin in the game. But I came by my bitcoins through luck, with little credit to me. I lived through the crash of 2011. So I’ve seen it before. Easy come, easy go.”
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