Former Greeley Central State Champion runner Pat Dolan continues to show his drive in battle with ALS – Greeley Tribune

Most of his life, Pat Dolan has run, for so many different reasons.

He runs to satisfy his competitive instincts.

He runs like a release from his daily stress.

He is running for his physical health.

He runs just for the pleasure of tightening the laces of his shoes and feeling completely detached.

Pat Dolan can no longer run.

Running is one of the many things he can no longer do on his own – things most of us take for granted, like moving, eating, talking, and breathing.

But it’s the things Dolan still does that define him a lot, a lot more than the things he can’t do anymore.

A healthcare professional works with Pat Dolan to move his joints. (Courtesy / Pat Dolan)

Dolan, 51, graduated from Greeley Central High School in 1988. In 1987, he won a state cross-country championship under the direction of famous coaches Doug Bell and the recently deceased Bob Bormuth.

In 2016, she was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

The disease causes loss of muscle mass and has a significant impact on physical function.

Dolan first noticed something was wrong when he started tripping and falling during his morning runs.

The disease has progressed significantly since Dolan was first diagnosed five years ago.

“The most profound impact has been the loss of my independence,” Dolan said in an email. “I am completely dependent on my healthcare team to do everything from scratching an itch to keeping my airways clear. “

A diary photo Pat Dolan kept of his victory at the State Cross Country Championship at Greeley Central in 1987. (Courtesy / Pat Dolan)
A diary photo Pat Dolan kept of him winning the State Cross Country Championship at Greeley Central in 1987 (Courtesy / Pat Dolan)

After becoming champion at Greeley Central, Dolan ran, on a scholarship, for the University of Colorado.

He lost his ability to run. But he didn’t lose the youthful enthusiasm and positive energy that drove him every time he put on his sneakers.

“The loss of my independence has also brought me closer to my family and friends – not because of the financial support and the fact that they are vacationing with us, which doesn’t hurt,” Dolan said. “But the realization that you are truly loved and the endless efforts they will make to enable me to live life to the fullest.”

Maybe no one lives their life to the fullest more effectively than Dolan.

After graduating from college in 1992, Dolan began his career in geographic information systems, starting with engineering firm Greeley Miner & Miner – now Telvent, in Windsor.

Pat Dolan and his 23-year-old wife, Mara.  (Courtesy / Pat Dolan)
Pat Dolan and his 23-year-old wife, Mara. (Courtesy / Pat Dolan)

He now lives in California and he officially retired in 2018 from a company named Esri, in Redland, California.

Despite the toll the SLA has taken him, Dolan continues to use his GIS skills.

Through an Eyegaze device that allows him to control a computer or tablet by watching words or commands on a video screen, Dolan uses his eyes to develop maps to advocate for care, healing and community for people with ALS and other degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

Initially, Dolan used his skills to identify gaps in care and map the locations of ALS clinics.

He also maps support for Accelerating Access to Critical Therapies (ACT) for ALS, a bill to establish grant programs to combat neurodegenerative diseases.

Through the bill, the Department of Health and Human Services would provide grants to eligible entities to facilitate patient access to investigational drugs that diagnose or treat ALS.

Pat Dolan uses a tablet using an Eyegaze device.  (Courtesy / Pat Dolan)
Pat Dolan uses a tablet using an Eyegaze device. (Courtesy / Pat Dolan)

The Food and Drug Administration reportedly provides grants to public and private entities to cover the costs of research and development of drugs that diagnose or treat ALS and other severely debilitating neurodegenerative diseases.

Dolan said Senator John Hickenlooper and Representative Lauren Boebert are the only two Colorado lawmakers who have yet to co-sponsor ACT for ALS. Dolan and his colleagues are working hard to get Hickenlooper to support the bill.

Dolan’s longtime mentor Doug Bell isn’t at all surprised that Dolan continues to work, nor is Bell surprised that Dolan is so determined to use his talents to help others in the same fight as him.

“What he’s got on his plate, no one can imagine what it is,” Bell said. “But I’m not surprised that he’s fighting and trying to help other people. If anyone can win this battle with ALS, it’s Pat Dolan. He’s going to fight and fight and fight. to beat.

Pat Dolan, left, and longtime mentor and coach Doug Bell during Dolan's state cross country champion season at Greeley Central High School in 1987 (Courtesy / Pat Dolan)
Pat Dolan, left, and longtime mentor and coach Doug Bell during Dolan’s state cross country champion season at Greeley Central High School in 1987 (Courtesy / Pat Dolan)

Whether it was winning distance races or winning the fight against such a physically debilitating disease as ALS, Dolan has always been humble.

As much credit as Dolan deserves for all he’s capable of doing while battling ALS, Dolan is the first to shift the praise to the crucial support system around him.

“It starts with having an amazing care team,” Dolan said. “They’re the ones doing the daily treatments that keep my lungs clear, my joints healthy, and prevent skin breakdown. But it is my wife, Mara, who allows me to live my life to the fullest on a daily basis. She adjusts my care needs as the disease progresses.

Dolan can go on and on about whatever his 23-year-old wife means to him. Although Dolan has always cherished his independence, he is happy to rely on Mara. They lean on each other.

Pat Dolan and his wife Mara in 2018 (Courtesy / Pat Dolan)
Pat Dolan and his wife Mara in 2018 (Courtesy / Pat Dolan)

“She is relentless in finding treatments and therapies that can either slow and / or reverse the progression of ALS,” Dolan said. “And she does it while working full time. So, I have no choice but to live fully each day.

In his decades and decades of training as promising runners, Bell said he rarely met someone with the drive and determination that Dolan displayed when race day arrived.

“Pat could turn it on, turn it off,” Bell said. “He could blunder before the start of the race. But when the race started he could really focus on what lay ahead. He was hard as nails. He could really focus on pushing his body. It’s kind of the art of pushing your body to the max and not going over the red line.

Running – especially long-distance running – is certainly not a sport for the faint of heart.

Pat Dolan and his wife, Mara, in October 2021 (Courtesy / Pat Dolan)
Pat Dolan and his wife, Mara, in October. (Courtesy / Pat Dolan)

Even though Dolan may not be able to run anymore, he still uses all the lessons and skills running has given him to fight an illness that is an even bigger obstacle than the longest or most difficult races.

“One of the hardest parts of living with a terminal illness is keeping your head in the game,” Dolan said. “Running taught me to be mentally strong, which allowed me to keep a cool head in the ALS game. … Living with ALS is like running a race every day, where you face the progression of ALS, which tells you to stop and give in to the despair of the race.

“But I can hear the voice of Doug Bell, my high school coach, in my head, telling me to pump my arms and speed through the turns and not focus on the pain and misery of the race. SLA. “

Bobby Fernandez covers high school sports for the Greeley Tribune. Contact him at (970) 392-4478, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @BobbyDFernandez.


More information

If you’re interested in learning more about ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) and supporting the ALS community, visit iamals.org and teamgleason.org – a pair of nonprofits that do vital work within from the ALS community.

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