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Brian Boyle Beats the Odds: C&O Canal 100 Mile Ultramarathon

Post by Steve Mavica, External Communications Manager, Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Blood Services Region

Author, American Red Cross blood recipient and national volunteer spokesman Brian Boyle continued his miraculous comeback from a horrific 2004 auto accident by successfully completing the C&O Canal 100 Mile Ultramarathon in Knoxville, Maryland, on April 26. Brian dedicated each mile of the race to the 100 people who pledged to donate blood or platelets through his recent SleevesUp campaign. The C&O Canal 100-mile race featured one 58-mile loop and one 41-mile loop almost entirely on the C&O Canal, starting and finishing at Camp Manidokan and running along the canal between Antietam Creek and Noland’s Ferry.

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Brian and his family arrived at scenic Camp Manidokan around 6 a.m. the day before to prepare for the race, but the sunny spring morning turned into something quite unexpected, at least in terms of the weather. Despite the brutal conditions on Saturday night, with freezing cold temperatures along with rain and sleet, Brian said the race was truly an amazing experience. Through extreme conditions Brian finished the 100-mile ultramarathon in just over 29 challenging, nonstop hours. While just over 130 runners registered for the race, only 69 crossed the finish line.BB Crossing the finish line

What makes this race even more significant to Brian was the fact that he was able to recruit 100 Red Cross blood and platelet donors through his SleevesUp campaign and dedicate each mile to these generous donors. Before the race, Brian printed out the names of the pledged blood donors and carried them with him as inspiration throughout the race. As a 36-time blood recipient, Brian say that he runs with an entire team of blood donors with him. This race gave new meaning to that statement because, as a blood recipient, he was running for 100 blood and platelet donors that helped up to 300 other blood recipients during their time of need, just like he did in the summer of 2004.

In 2004, on the way home from swim practice in Welcome, Maryland, then 18-year-old Brian’s future changed in an instant when his car was hit by a dump truck. Having lost 60 percent of his blood, he was airlifted to a trauma hospital. During many operations, he received 36 blood transfusions, 13 plasma treatments and died eight times. Following surgery, he was placed in a medically induced coma and given little chance of survival. When Brian finally emerged from the coma two months later, doctors predicted he might not be able to walk again. With enormous fortitude, Brian learned to walk, then run, and eventually, to swim and bike. With his dream of one day competing in the Ironman Triathlon spurring him on, Brian defied all odds and competed and crossed the finish line in the 2007 Kona Ironman less than four years after his accident. Today, Brian is a volunteer spokesman for the Red Cross.

Brian has beaten the odds again and again by completing many endurance races such as the Boston Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, the U.S. Championships Ironman Triathlon in New York City, the Ironman Triathlon in Cambridge, Maryland and now his first 100-mile ultramarathon. During each race, Brian wears the Red Cross emblem to represent the many blood recipients whose lives have been saved in part due to Red Cross blood and platelet donors and to thank the blood donors who helped save his life and were the foundation for his recovery.

Visit ironheartbrianboyle.com to learn more about Brian, including his published memoir, Iron Heart, describing on his journey back to life, and his new book The Patient Experience: The Importance of Care, Communication, and Compassion in the Hospital Room provides vital information from the patient’s perspective to help caregivers gain valuable insight. Photos from this amazing event can be found on the Red Cross Blood Services Flickr page.