Marine veteran to run 450th marathon despite recent cancer treatment: ‘For the wounded warriors’


There’s no stopping America’s heroes.

Earlier this year, Marine Corps veteran Hank Donigan took on the challenge of running 50 marathons in 2023 — which would make 450 in his lifetime.

The longtime Marine, based in San Diego, will meet this milestone on Dec. 31 at the Across the Years multi-day running event in Phoenix, Arizona.

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While this is an astounding feat on its own, Donigan will be tackling the run just three weeks following brain cancer treatment and five months after having brain surgery.

Donigan, 68, told Fox News Digital that he hasn’t felt compelled to slow down, regardless of his health status.

“There are no limits to what you’re able to do if you have the hope that you can do it,” said Donigan, pictured. (Semper Fi & America’s Fund)

“[Brain surgery] got me a little bit off my schedule,” he said. “Fortunately, I’ve done over 20 marathons since my brain surgery, and I’m going to be back on track as of the 31st.”

The Marine detailed how, back in 2012, he decided to “ramp up” his marathon competitiveness, fueled by a desire to give back to wounded warriors.

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“I thought I’d be able to run more marathons and do some charitable fundraising,” he said. 

“I wanted to do something for organizations like the Semper Fi & America’s Fund, so that’s what I’ve been doing for the past decade.”

Donigan was on active duty for 30 years as a Marine Corps infantry officer across 45 different countries.

“It was a great adventure, I can tell you that,” he said.

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In his civilian employment at Camp Pendleton, Donigan continues to serve the Marine Corps.

As a 100% disabled veteran, he lives with PTSD and a traumatic brain injury.

donigan at kuwait liberation

Donigan served during the Liberation of Kuwait in 1991. (Semper Fi & America’s Fund)

Those struggles haven’t stopped Donigan from hitting the pavement to complete about “a marathon a week,” he said.

“It’s a good time to just kind of chill out, settle down and think about the world,” he said of the marathons.

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Donigan added that he’s “feeling great” as he nears the end of his “best year ever.”

He said, “I smashed all my expectations, so it’s my motivation to keep moving. I do it for the wounded warriors [and] their families.”

hank donigan address platoon

Former Col. Hank Donigan is pictured addressing his platoon in 1978. (Semper Fi & America’s Fund)

Donigan has been receiving radiation therapy five days a week, which is slated to end on Jan. 30, 2024.

He said he’s hoping to “run right through it,” as he completed a marathon after receiving his first three treatments with “no problems.”

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In July, Donigan had surgery to remove a golf ball-sized tumor from the frontal cortex of his brain.

With radiation, he said he believes there is a “pretty high probability” the cancer won’t come back.

“I don’t have the least bit of anxiety about it,” he said. “I’m very optimistic.” 

hank donigan marine corps marathon

Donigan is pictured with two Marines after completing the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. (Semper Fi & America’s Fund)

“I’m very fortunate that I have, from my military benefits … some of the best care in the world.”

As he continues running, Donigan has set another goal to raise $101,977 – on behalf of his Naval Academy class of 1977 – to support wounded warriors through the Semper Fi & America’s Fund.

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The Bob & Renee Parson’s Foundation, which provides funding to communities in need, has vowed to match up to $10 million in Semper Fi & America’s Fund donations.

Donigan has raised over $32,000 since October, all of which is being matched by the Bob & Renee Parson’s Foundation.

Bob Parsons, a Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran and co-founder of The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation, emphasized the importance of backing the Semper Fi & America’s Fund.

“Transitioning away from military service, whether planned or unplanned due to injury, is never easy,” Parsons said in a statement to Fox News Digital.

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“Oftentimes, these service men, women and families are carrying both visible and invisible wounds that they’re unprepared to deal with,” he went on. “That’s where the fund comes in, providing a unique level of support during their time of need.”

This greater impact is what motivates Donigan to hit 500 all-time marathons by the end of 2024, he said.

hank donigan us navy

Midshipman Hank Donigan, U.S. Navy, is pictured in 1977. (Semper Fi & America’s Fund)

“I’m a man of faith and God willing, I’ll be up on my feet,” he said. “I’m getting older every day, but I think I can do 500, and I think I can hit and surpass my monetary goal for the fund.”

Donigan said he’s inspired by other wounded and disabled veterans who also continue to run.

So I say, ‘If they can do it, I can do it,’” he said. “And I hope people can look at me and say, ‘If he can do it, maybe I can give it a try, too.’”

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“There are no limits to what you’re able to do if you have the hope that you can do it.”

Donations are accepted at thefund.org/donate.

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