Athlete Brian Boyle Tells Awe-inspiring Story
“Blue and Grey Today” Hood College – Frederick, MD
They say that cats have nine lives. Brian Boyle may have used each one of those on July 6, 2004, when his car and body were shattered in an automobile accident. Told he had only minutes to live, Boyle defied all medical odds, and a little more than three years later, ran in the Ford Ironman World Championship. This is his story that he told at Hood College on Sept. 9 to an awestruck and astonished audience.
Boyle, who graduated this past May from St. Mary’s College, was an ordinary high school senior in 2004, looking forward to college life. After practicing for swimming, a sport in which he takes great pride, Boyle was struck by a truck. The impact smashed the entire driver’s side of his car and shifted his heart to the complete opposite side of his body.
An opening 11-minute video presentation immediately caught the audience’s attention at Boyle’s presentation. NBC had created a story on Boyle, which showed the extent of the accident and the excruciating pain that he and his parents went through.
His father, Garth Boyle, said, “I just wanted to have my little boy back. We cried for 30 minutes in disbelief [after learning of the accident].”
Boyle was in a coma for two months. He lost 60 percent of his blood, his lungs completely collapsed, and he lost a total of 100 pounds.
“My goals prior to the accident were shattered, just like the bones in my body,” Boyle said. Thoughts such as not going to college, never swimming, and never walking again all entered his mind. “I thought I was going to be stuck in this hospital bed the rest of my life.”
He wanted to give up, and at a certain point while in the hospital, he was set to do just that. That all changed when his biggest influence came into the room that afternoon.
“I saw [my mom and dad] right in my face. I will never forget that. And [my dad] said, ‘You are the only thing we have.'” Boyle said that after he heard that, he started to attempt to move his fingers, along with the rest of his body.
That movement led to walking with a walker, then a cane, and finally with only his parents at his side.
“I thought that if I could walk, I could swim. And if I could swim, I could run,” Boyle said. “Growing up, I watched [the Ironman race] on TV. Basically, when I graduated high school, it was go to college, swim on the team, and I wanted to do an Ironman. Those were my three goals. That is what I wanted to accomplish.”
Boyle realized he could swim, and his first meet was against none other then Hood College.
Nov. 10, 2007 was the day that Brian Boyle knew he was back to normal. Confident in his swimming, he trained for only two weeks by running on a treadmill for hours. The Ford Ironman in Kona, Hawaii had arrived. The competition consisted of a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride and finished with a 26.2 mile run.
Only three years after coming so close to losing his life, Brian Boyle was aiming to accomplish his third goal. “If you want to know how far you can go, this is the place,” he said. An individual has 17 hours to do it, and Boyle was no different this day.
One wouldn’t believe Boyle if he said no doubts crossed his mind while participating. “The whole way through, I had my doubts. About half-way through the swim, I got a cramp in my leg. I didn’t really know I was going to finish the race until I saw the finish line,” he laughed. “At about mile 25.9 [of the running portion], I knew I was going to finish. It took the visualization to realize I was going to finish.”
That visualization finally kicked in. Brian Boyle completed the Ford Ironman, one of the toughest tests the body can endure.
When asked if he ever thinks back to crossing that finish line at Kona with nostalgia, Boyle said, “It is a constant revisiting. That was the biggest race of my life and it still is. [That race] was the way of knowing I was fully back. I will cherish that forever.”
Boyle knows that this has made him who he is, and he doesn’t hide from it. “Every day is emotional. I laugh about it, I smile about it, and I’m a very happy person. But deep down, I am constantly thinking about it.”
He finds it important to visit the Red Cross, who named him spokesman of the year in 2007 and this current year, 2010. He goes to blood drives “to see the impact of what people are doing, the ones that saved my life. It is so motivational, so inspirational.”
Boyle just gave blood for the first time since his surgery in December and would recommend it to anyone because “it can save three lives.”
A well-deserved 30-second standing ovation followed his speech, after which questions were aplenty. Boyle stayed for over an hour to answer Hood students’ individual questions.
Some people would call Brian Boyle a hero. Others would say he is a motivator. To him, he is just a normal young man living life. “All you have is the present moment, tomorrow is not guaranteed. Never limit yourself and remember that when other people say that something is impossible, that’s just their opinion.”