No slowing Peggy Doyle
Gull Island woman, stroke survivor, completes famed New York Marathon
On Nov. 5, 2011, Peggy Doyle of Gull Island suffered a stroke that completely caught her off guard.
“When I had the stroke, I was devastated, because I figured, I’m a runner, nothing can happen to me. I had that kind of attitude.”
Having since moved on from the health scare, Doyle managed to accomplish quite the task on Nov. 3. The 55-year-old completed the New York City Marathon, running the full 26.2-mile route.
An avid runner in the 1980s, Doyle ran less often as work commitments and the demands of raising two children took up more of her time, but she did continue to work out and go for walks whenever she could manage to do so.
When her younger sister, Christina Judge, died suddenly eight years ago at the age of 42 following a heart attack, Doyle was shocked. She decided then to recommit herself to fitness.
“I couldn’t do a kilometre without having to stop,” said Doyle, reflecting on her early struggles.
She eventually managed to tackle longer distances, running in several Tely 10 races and the Cape-to-Cabot 20-kilometre race.
When Doyle suffered a stroke in 2011, she was worried it was the result of a brain tumour. She competed in the Cape-to-Cabot three weeks earlier and was in solid shape, by her own estimation.
“I can’t have a stroke, because I run five days-a-week,” she reasoned. “But I did, and it’s strictly family history.”
The stroke initially affected her speech, but did not have a significant lasting impact.
However, Doyle must take medication for the remainder of her life to reduce her blood pressure. After a few weeks dealing with her own anxiety, Doyle eased herself back into running.
Last fall, Doyle started to think about working her way towards running in the famed marathon, which was cancelled in 2012 after hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on New York.
“I had the route map down by my treadmill, and I’d kind of look at it and say, ‘Someday,’ never really thinking that it would happen,” recalls Doyle, who works as a student assistant at Tricon Elementary School in Bay de Verde.
She commenced her training for the marathon in June. Doyle’s friend, Gillian Noonan, agreed to accompany her on the trip to New York as a spectator.
“I can’t say enough good about her,” said Doyle, noting Noonan did a lot of preparation work for the trip.
In the week leading up to the marathon, doubts creeped into her mind. Doyle considered whether she was in over her head by attempting to compete in the race.
“But you either run with 50,000 or you run with 200. You just get out and run.”
The Wednesday before the race, a surprise pep rally was held at Tricon Elementary to help encourage Doyle.
“They had a card made for me with a big sneaker on it and little quotes,” she said.
Doyle was also invited to speak with students in a classroom about quilting — a request that proved to be a trick. Instead, the students presented her with letters wishing her luck and pictures they drew of her running. They also took turns asking Doyle questions.
“The letters were heartwarming,” she said. “One little guy — I’ll never forget it — said, ‘Just when you think you can’t go on any longer, keep those legs pumping.’ That resonated with me.”
The marathon atmosphere was intimidating at first, and she did not have a great sleep the night before the race while sharing a tent on Staten Island with approximately 2,000 fellow racers.
Doyle also noticed the extensive amount of security in place for the race. That was likely in response to last year’s bombing incident at the Boston Marathon that claimed the lives of three people.
“There were a lot of ‘Boston Strong’ signs and T-shirts,” said Doyle.
She finished the race with a time of five hours, five minutes and 11 seconds, finishing 39,777th overall. Doyle’s goal was to beat the fivehour mark.
“I met some fantastic people along the way and made a few friends,” she said. “It was an overall wonderful experience for a smalltown girl.”
While she enjoyed her experience at the New York City Marathon, Doyle may look to run in a different city next time she signs up for such a lengthy race.
“You’d like to try someplace dif- ferent,” she said. “Someplace flatter.”
Peggy Doyle at the 16-mile mark of the New York City Marathon. The 55-year-old took part in the Nov. 3 race for the first time in her life, almost two years after suffering a stroke.