Boyle, 21, completes recovery in style

Car accident survivor finishes grueling race

Ironman triathlon

Sun Follow-up

October 16, 2007|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,Sun reporter

With the sound of cheers from his family and well-wishers filling his ears, Brian Boyle finished the Ford Ironman World Championship in the warm Hawaiian darkness, three years after his near-fatal car accident on a rural road in Charles County.

Wearing bib No. 163, the 21-year-old St. Mary's College student crossed the finish line of the triathlon in Kailua-Kona on Saturday in 14 hours, 42 minutes, 25 seconds. His time placed him 1,513th out of 1,850 competitors.

"It was the greatest day of my life," Boyle said by phone. "I wasn't trying to break any records, I was just trying to finish."

In his sixth attempt, Australian Chris McCormack took the Ironman title in 8:15:34.

The world championship was Boyle's first full-length triathlon and only his third swim-bike-run endurance race.

As he sprinted under the arch at the finish line on Kailua Pier, Boyle spread his arms wide and turned a complete circle to take in the applause. He raised his arms in a brief "pumping iron" pantomime before he was smothered in his parents' embrace. While his father, Garth, ruffled his hair, his mother placed a lei around Boyle's neck. All three broke down and cried.

"It was amazing," JoAnne Boyle said of her son's triumph. "It was something I never thought I'd see."

Boyle added, "It was an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I stood there and took in as much as I could."

Three years ago, a 10-wheel dump truck slammed into the side of Boyle's car as he was returning home from swimming practice. His heart was battered, he suffered a broken clavicle, ribs and pelvis, and he lost 60 percent of his blood.

After coming out of a two-month coma and spending months in rehabilitation, Boyle wrote to the Ironman organizers last May to ask that he be considered for a spot down the road.

Peter Henning, TV producer of the Ironman show, wrote back and offered him a bib in the 2007 competition, provided that Boyle could get a battery of medical clearances and complete a half-triathlon. He did all that and trained in the two months leading up to the Ironman.

When he arrived in Hawaii a week ago, Boyle immediately plunged into an intense Ironman tutorial, learning some of the finer points of racing and pacing.

"It gave me confidence," Boyle said, adding that he needed all that and more during the race.

Boyle pulled his right hamstring during the swim, battled head winds during the first half of the bike race and ran in inky darkness by the light of a glow stick. With 10 miles to go, he slowed to a painful jog but "never thought of quitting."

Boyle finished the 2.4-mile swim in 1:11:59, the 112-mile bike ride in 7:32:59 and the 26.2-mile run in 5:40:34. His time on the two transitions was 17:05.

"From being told he would never walk again, to running down Alii Drive and crossing the finish line, Brian's performance was one of the most remarkable and inspirational moments I have ever seen," Henning said.

NBC will show race highlights Dec. 1 from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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