Once facing death, triathlete still going strong
Boyle will compete in June 17 triathlon in St. Mary’s City
More than 600 athletes plan to compete in this Saturday’s triathlon at St. Mary’s City. Brian “Iron Heart” Boyle is one of them.
Boyle became well known locally after his remarkable recovery from a July 6, 2004, car accident in La Plata that almost killed him. The then-18year-old lost 60 percent of his blood; his heart moved across his chest; and his organs and pelvis were shattered. He was brought back to life eight times on the operating table. He was in a coma on life support for more than two months.
Beating all odds, Boyle managed to have a full recovery, swam on his college team and finished the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii in 2007, just three years after his near-fatal accident.
Over the years since, Boyle has finished more than three dozen marathons and triathlons and wrote two books telling his near-death experience and the following comeback.
For Boyle, this Saturday’s race carries special meaning. The race marks his 10th year competing in endurance sports and will take place at the college where he trained as a student for his first race after the accident.
Growing up in Charles County, Boyle graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 2010 and now lives in Huntingtown.
On June 17, he will join hundreds of athletes from the East Coast to compete in the Virginia Maryland Triathlon Series that is coming to Southern Maryland for the first time.
The company organizes about 32 events over 13 locations in Virginia and Maryland from March through October, said Don White, the company’s vice president of operations.
White said the company had to put a cap on the number of participants because they weren’t sure how many people they could support at the new location.
In addition to the 600 athletes who will compete this Saturday, “we have 44 people on the waiting list,” White said.
There are two races — an international and a sprint version — planned for Saturday’s event, White said. Distance is the key difference between the two races — the sprint triathlon is half the distance of the international one, also known as the Olympic triathlon.
Boyle will participate in the Olympic version, which is made up of three courses: a 1.5-kilometer swim in a sheltered cove in St. Mary’s River, a 40-kilometer-long bike ride and a 10-kilometer-long run.
The swim course for both races starts along the St. Mary’s College waterfront area in the St. Mary’s River and navigates over an oyster sanctuary, according to a press release from the company. Water temperatures are expected to be in the mid-70s this weekend.
The bike and run courses are fast and flat, taking athletes through historical landmarks in the area, the release said. Based on his previous races and training, Boyle hopes to finish the race in two and a half hours. He will be wearing his Red Cross race suit with 36 red crosses on it — to represent the 36 blood donors who helped save his life, he said.
“I’m always reflecting back on my journey,” he said. “Never take life for granted.”
The accident, as life-changing as it was, never took away Boyle’s goal to participate in triathlons like the Ironman championship.
“I grew up watching the Ironman on TV,” he said. “I was so inspired by the stories.”
If the accident had never happened, he probably wouldn’t have tried it until he was in his 30s, the now 31-year-old said.
“After the accident, it was about getting back into life again, doing independent things,” he said, adding that he also hoped crossing the finish line of the Ironman race would show his parents that he’s fully healed, and they wouldn’t need to worry about his health anymore.
In the years following his first race a decade ago, Boyle continued to participate in endurance sports not only because that’s his way of saying thank you to those who helped him along the way, but also because he enjoys it.
“I really enjoy the competition, the training,” Boyle said. His competitive instincts keep pushing him forward in every race. With his blood racing and his heart pumping, the signs once suggesting he was dying now signal he’s living.
The international race starts at 8 a.m. and the sprint version starts at 8:30 a.m. on June 17, and both races are expected to finish up by noon.
“We encourage people to delay their routine travel in the morning” in the southern part of the county, White said, adding that there will be no road closures that day.
Brian Boyle runs during a segment of the Ironman Maryland triathlon in 2014 in Cambridge.