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Posted: October 19, 2009  : Add to Mixx! Subscribe to stories like this

Athletics: Inspirational Marathoner Brian Boyle runs Baltimore Marathon

Last weekend, Brian Boyle, competed in the Baltimore marathon and ran along the streets in the city that taught him how to walk again.

In 2004, Brian was involved in a near fatal car accident with a dump truck. His heart was ripped across his chest, lungs collapsed, shattered ribs/pelvis/left clavicle, damaged practically every organ in his body, 60% blood loss and was practically dead on arrival when arriving to the hospital.

For the next two months, he was in a coma, on kidney dialysis and life support, undergoing 14 operations, 36 blood transfusions, 13 plasma treatments and losing one-hundred pounds. In the coma, he remembers hearing the last rights and statements about being a vegetable and spending the rest of his life in a nursing home. Through the love of his parents, support from family and friends, and a positive attitude, he was able to make a comeback - one year after the accident, he was beginning his freshman year in college and was able to swim in the first swim meet. And in October of 2007, with barely six weeks of training, he competed in the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona.

Here is a short clip of Brian's story from the 2007 Ironman broadcast on NBC:

On October 25th he is competing in the Marine Corps. marathon in memory of his grandfather who fought in World War 2 and to honor all the soldiers who have sacrificed their bodies and lives. And, on November 1, he will run in the New York City marathon to celebrate life and his recovery and to say thank you to everyone who has helped in his journey back to life.

Boyle was recently awarded the American Red Cross Spokesperson of the Year and has also joined forces with Lance Armstrong and his Live Strong foundation to help join the fight against cancer. He has also written a book about his past experiences called Iron Heart, which is now in bookstores nationwide.

Here is a short clip of Brian talking about his new book on NBC's Today Show:

Every marathon is special to Brian and he has competed in several outside the sport of Ironman triathlon because he is ultimately working up to the ultramarathon distance, and then up to the Badwater ultramarathon.

Brian states, "When I was going through rehab in Baltimore, I remember sitting in my wheelchair and looking around at the other patients, thinking that I may actually have the opportunity to leave the hospital one day. I made a promise to myself right there that if I ever made a full recovery, I would use my story to help others in as many ways as possible. It's all about giving back, and ultimately it's all about inspiring others to never give up on their dreams in."

To Brian, the marathon is all about the experience and the thrill of the challenge where every breathe is an achievement and every step is a blessing.

* This is an excerpt from Iron Heart where Brian talks about his experiences of gradually progressing from his wheelchair to getting back on his feet and slowly learning how to walk and run again.

Chapter 20: The Track

The first step back to normalcy is liberation from the wheelchair. I have gone from standing for several minutes to hobbling the fifteen feet from my bed to the kitchen table. I stop and rest, then shuffle back to the bed. Several hours later, I do it again. Soon, I'm able to walk further. One regular trip is the twenty-five feet from the hallway door to the garage. I'd get to the doorknob, stop and rest, and then return to my bed. The most difficult part about learning how to walk again is stairs. Once my foot makes it onto the first step, I have to catch my breath, rest, and five minutes later I do the same with my left foot. Descending steps is just as tiring and laborious.

For two consecutive months, I focus my energy and attention on walking. It means freedom from my two-wheel fortress of dependent mobility. Even though I have to stop to take a break every few minutes, I find immense joy and pleasure in walking on my own two feet. With constant exercises, stretches, plyometrics, and an incredible amount of balance drills, I'm finally able to permanently graduate from the wheelchair to a cane. It's a relief not having to ask my mom or dad for a sandwich or to grab a clean T-shirt from my room.

Now, because of the success of outpatient therapy, there has been a lot of recovery in the nerves in my left shoulder from Cameele's E-stem device. Tosheeda is a miracle worker, helping me regain leg strength. She has me do many of the same drills and regimens that I did on the track team: stretching, high-knee exercises, and simple plyometrics.

One late afternoon, my dad takes me to the high school track for some additional walking. The exercise also benefits him. Ever since his panic attack, he's been taking the antidepressant Zoloft, which has improved his mood. Our first and only lap takes forever, but the track's rubber surface cushions my fragile knees and ankles.

Each week we return to the track. I usually add another lap each time. My dad walks alongside me, which works out well because it gives us more time to talk. We walk at an extremely slow pace. But that's okay. The greatest part is that I am upright, mobile, and not confined to a bed, chair, or cane. Distances are now measured in hundreds of yards rather than several-dozen feet. We seldom discuss the accident. Instead, we focus on my future, since I'm not going to college. I've decided that once my physical therapy is over, I want to learn more about the concrete business. I already know how to operate a concrete pump truck. I'd be following in the footsteps of the family construction business. My dad was always proud of my academic achievements, so it was his dream for me to go to college because he never had the opportunity. But now, I'd rather be around my dad on his different job sites because it'd be therapeutic for him as well.

On our fifth visit to the track, I hear the distant boom of thunder as rain begins falling around us like heavy teardrops. Curiosity consumes me with a burning desire to walk faster. My dad asks me if everything is okay. I nod yes and continue to press on, quickening my pace, almost to the point of losing balance. The faster leg rotations are accompanied by an unexpected lift off from my forefeet as they hit the ground. My walking turns into a slow jog.

I visualize the scene in Forrest Gump when he is running away from the bullies as his leg braces fall away. I'm fleeing from the tragedy of July 6 that stole my life. With my unnatural, awkward running style—the slow-to-mend pelvis still causes pain—I must look like an uncoordinated fool. But who cares! I am running! Rain begins splashing upward from the track. My deep gasps play a duet with the sound of each foot striking the wet surface. Walking was once impossible, and now I run.

I jog for another lap before exhaustion finally sets in. I rest my weary body against a fence. Sweat mixes with rain on my face. My dad walks over to me and proudly puts his arms around my shoulder. We both laugh. It's laughter that neither of us wants to cease. I tell him that two laps are good for a start, but what about some day running a mile? My dad starts giggling with happiness. "Brian, don't get too ahead of yourself." It's great to hear the merriment in his voice again.

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