Ed Halpin has been caught in a seemingly endless battle against his own body for the better part of the past two decades.
You wouldn’t know it from speaking with him today, but Halpin — PG&E’s Senior Vice President of Generation and Chief Nuclear Officer who oversees the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant — is less than six months removed from major brain surgery.
The April 12 operation, performed by Dr. Robert K. Jackler at Stanford University, was the latest in a long line of medical procedures dating to 2001 for the 56-year-old.
But Halpin is not letting that stop him when on Sunday morning he’ll be among the more than 2,000 runners entered in the City to the Sea half marathon. It’s something of a milestone for the lifelong athlete who will be running with a team of colleagues from PG&E.
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He’s undergone six major surgeries trying to fix a hole in the lining of his brain, and, all things considered, Halpin is more than grateful to be alive.
“It’s been a long journey,” Halpin said. “Sixteen years of going through this stuff and all these major surgeries. So, for me, this race … it’s special.”
Halpin admits he hasn’t been able to log much serious training time ahead of the 13.1-mile race from downtown San Luis Obispo to Pismo Beach. The spinal fluid that was leaking into his inner ear forced doctors to remove Halpin’s right “balance canal” in April. Imbalance and vertigo have been a hindrance.
After surgery, he relied on a walker to get around, and it wasn’t until the beginning of September that Halpin was able to run again.
“It’s a miracle he’s made it this far,” PG&E spokesperson Blair Jones said.
But those who know Halpin well aren’t surprised by his relentless drive. With more than 35 years experience, Halpin is one of the longest-serving, active CNOs in the U.S. nuclear industry.
Before PG&E, Halpin was president, chief executive officer and chief nuclear officer at the South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Co. He announced in June his plans to retire on Dec. 31, capping a decorated career than spans nearly four decades.
Knowing his time at PG&E is drawing to a close — coupled with a difficult medical journey — has led Halpin to a state of introspection this week.
“You have all those mixed emotions that are floating in, and it’ll be an emotional weekend for me and I think a reflective weekend,” Halpin said. “A weekend of feeling thankful for the people who I work with and the people who have helped me to get better. And thankful to my family and for my incredible wife, Melanie, and my youngest son, Luke, who lives with us here in California.”
When asked what motivates Halpin to run a half marathon just months removed from surgery, he draws on a story from his days as an All-American boxer at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated with honors in 1983.
Halpin broke his nose during a national semifinal match and went on to lose a split decision in the final. His coach at the time, the late Emerson Smith, questioned Halpin’s effort in the championship bout.
“He said, ‘Eddy, if you would have tried just a little bit harder, you would have been a national champion.’ ” Halpin remembers. “Turns out my nose was broken, and I got mad at him. We didn’t talk for a while.
“I recognized a couple years after I graduated that he was right. I held back. It’s just one of those life lessons that, for me, has helped to guide me in regards to pursuing the right things for the right reasons.”
Halpin would go on to earn masters degrees from Seton Hall University and Fielding Graduate University and father three children — Ian, 32, Katherine, 27 and Luke, 24.
Halpin said the philosophy applied to his professional pursuits is rooted in building trust, mutual respect and setting high, reachable goals.
“Even though you’re up against all odds with trying to help your team get to the next level or taking care of someone or, you know, going through multiple operations and/or running a half marathon — you give it your best,” Halpin said. “I think that has helped to guide me and to have a very positive attitude of getting through all this, and hopefully set a good example for others.”
City to the Sea half marathon
When: 7 a.m. Sunday
Starting point: Higuera and Court Streets, San Luis Obispo
Course (13.1 miles): The City to the Sea half marathon course is a point-to-point race that starts in downtown San Luis Obispo. The course winds through the city, takes runners along scenic back roads, including the Bob Jones Trail, and ends alongside the Pacific Ocean in Pismo Beach.
When: 7:30 a.m. Sunday
Starting point: Dinosaur Caves Park, 2701 Price Street, Pismo Beach
Course (3.1 miles): The Seaside 5K course is out-and-back and begins and ends in Pismo Beach at Dinosaur Caves Park, near the finish expo for the half marathon. The scenic course winds through the neighborhoods of Shell Beach with views of the Pacific Ocean. There is one challenging climb on this otherwise gentle course.
More information: To sign up for the race, which since 1995 has served as a fundraiser for Cuesta College track and field and cross country teams, visit www.citytothesea.org.