No slow­ing Peggy Doyle

Gull Is­land woman, stroke sur­vivor, com­pletes famed New York Marathon

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

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.”

Sub­mit­ted photo

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.

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