I have only run two marathons, but I faced challenges while training for both of them and those challenges made me feel stronger and feel more empowered to run. I broke my ankle while training for my first marathon in 2003 and the injury made me more determined to heal quickly and pick another goal marathon (Portland) six months after I fell while running in icy conditions in the Rattlesnake Wilderness.
I was a new mom when I trained for my second marathon—the Newport, Ore. Marathon—in 2008. I felt empowered after giving birth and finding time to train and stay healthy while I was nursing my son.
But my challenges were nothing compared to those that Brian Boyle faced when he participated in the Ironman Triathlon about a year after he was in a tragic car accident in which every major organ in his body was damaged and doctors thought he wouldn’t survive, let alone walk again. Brian was 18 and had just graduated from high school when he was in the accident. He had to be revived in the hospital over a half dozen times, had several surgeries and admits he almost gave up on life multiple times.
Brian spoke to about 300 people at the Road Runners Club of America convention in Albuquerque a few weeks ago. He was honored at the convention for his perseverance to beat the odds and live the life of an athlete despite what doctors predicted. Being an athlete and having goals saved Brian’s life in more ways than one. Triathlons and marathons have given him a reason to live. Brian tells his story in his book “Iron Heart” and at speaking engagements around the country.
Brian thanked the running community for what we do at the convention in Albuquerque and said, “You bring people back to life.”
I couldn’t agree more. Running has been a source of comfort at times in my life and has given me confidence when I needed it. I discovered running in 5th grade when my P.E. teacher, who was an Ironman athlete, organized a mini-triathlon for my elementary school. I had always been a swimmer and had participated in my local YMCA swim team since I was 5 years old, but I had never competed as a runner. I did well in the swimming portion of the triathlon and not so well in the cycling part, but when it came time to run a mile on our school’s track I felt something that I had never felt before. Like most 10-year-old girls, I didn’t have much confidence but completing that triathlon organized by my woman P.E. teacher made me feel on top of the world for weeks.
I never forgot how it felt to feel my body push and challenge itself and to succeed. The experience made me join my track team in 7th grade and I’ve never stopped running since. When I’m feeling down running lifts my spirits. Nothing does better for my mood than a good long run or fast track workout.
I love seeing others discover the benefits of running, whether its physical, mental or emotional. During tough times running can be the best thing for some of us. And when we can’t run because of injury or other reasons we realize that we want to even more, and we persevere just like Brian Boyle.