INSPIRATIONAL ATHLETE, AUTHOR DISCUSSES BOOK WITH RYKEN STUDENTS
The County Times Newspaper
By Carrie Munn
St. Mary’s College of Maryland alum and Southern Maryland local legend Brian Boyle visited English students at St. Mary’s Ryken last Friday to talk about his inspirational, nonfiction book, “Iron Heart.”
The work was assigned reading for several Ryken juniors and Boyle addressed their inquiries about his true-life account of overcoming injuries sustained in a 2004 severe automobile accident and going on to complete the grueling Ironman competition.
At 18, Boyle, of Welcome, in Charles County, was an honor student and all-star athlete at McDonough High School when his life was placed in peril after his Camaro was struck by a dump truck. In 2007, Boyle, who technically died multiple times during surgeries and was told he may never walk again, made headlines when he crossed the finish line after the intense 2.4-swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile full marathon in Kona, Hawaii.
From coma to Kona, “Iron Heart” is his personal and inspirational tale and one that Ryken English teacher Misty Frantz said her students connect with.
“Every day I inspire my students to accomplish their goals and make the world a better place,” Frantz said, adding the choices she makes in literature have to support the ‘quitting is not a option’ philosophy she lives and teaches by. “Brian’s story fits right in with that philosophy,” she told The County Times.
She explained “Iron Heart” is an inspirational yet relatable tale for her students and that the experience of meeting Boyle makes the book come to life for them.
Students asked Boyle questions ranging from the serious; “Did you ever want to just give up?” and “Did you ever question your faith?” to the superficial; “Do you have a girlfriend?” and “How much can you bench?”
Boyle answered them all candidly and with a sense of humor. As one session wrapped up, he told the high schoolers, “I’m nothing different, I just have a crazy story to share.”
Boyle said the book was borne from his personal journaling during the lengthy recovery process, explaining it took time to determine which memories were a reality and which were not. Boyle said he was determined to get out of the hospital bed he’d spent weeks in, not just for his sake, but for his parents’. “I just had to pull through for them,” he said.
He said as crazy as it sounds, it took something as intense as finishing the Ironman for him to feel his recovery was complete. “Every week, every day was and is a gift,” Boyle said, adding that in the years since his miraculous recovery he has sought out the medical workers who saved his life and thanked them, has become an American Red Cross advocate and public speaker, as well as pushing the athletic envelope for himself. He continues to train extensively and competes in many endurance events with sponsorships.
Boyle said he is working on getting back to Kona, to disprove the naysayers who claimed he only got the chance to compete because of the media attention and his amazing story. He said in the future two goals are to qualify straight-up for the Ironman and The Boston Marathon.
The athlete shared that his outlook on life is forever changed, saying he wakes up happy to be able to move his toes each morning and has an enhanced level of determination and appreciation in life.
When a student asked the author, “Would you go back and change it if you could?”, Boyle responded that as tough as it was, he wouldn’t take it back for the platform his experience has given him to help others.
He said his thoughts went from ‘Why did He let this happen to me?’ to ‘Why has He saved me?’ From there, his spirit of determination carried him through a remarkable recovery and he now serves as inspiration for other athletes and trauma patients facing a seemingly insurmountable return to normalcy.
As for his book, “Iron Heart” is written in a simplistic, first-hand narrative and Boyle said his hope in publishing the work is that it ends up in the hands of someone in a similar situation and gives them the hope to push through it.
“My students continually tell me that this is the one book they enjoyed reading,” Frantz said, adding that Brian is real and by him taking the time to come meet with the students, “…my students see you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.”
Many excited students requested photos with the athlete and author following their open dialogue about the reading.