By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Doug Boyle has never been one to back down from a challenge. When he was a teenager, the lifelong Kearny resident was asked by a family member what he wanted to do with his life.
“I said I wanted to join the Marine Corps,” Boyle said.
The response raised some eyebrows with his family members.
“But all the men in my family were in the military,” Boyle said. “My great grandfather, my grandfather, my father, all were in the military. It was absolutely what I wanted to do.”
So when the former Kearny High football defensive end graduated from Kearny in 1989, Boyle enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.
Boyle was deployed to the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm. In 1991, he was part of the platoon that enacted Operation Eastern Exit, which enabled the members of the United States Embassy in Somalia to evacuate safely.
When Boyle left the Marine Corps as a corporal in 1993, he needed another challenge in his life. So he took the Civil Service exam to become a Kearny firefighter. In 1996, Boyle joined the Kearny Fire Department and has been a member ever since.
“I was very happy when the Kearny Fire Department called,” Boyle said. “It was always something that I wanted to do.”
A few years ago, Boyle needed yet another challenge. He became a road runner.
“I always ran in the Marine Corps, but I stopped running when I joined the fire department,” Boyle said. “One day, I woke up and I just didn’t feel good. I had put on some weight and was tired. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I just didn’t feel right.”
Boyle’s doctor suggested some change of lifestyle, which included more exercise. Boyle then decided to find his running shoes and head back to the roads.
“I bought a joggling stroller so I could run with my daughter Jillian when she was little,” Boyle said. “People would always see me running with the stroller. Soon after, I took running more seriously.”
In 2009, Boyle decided he was ready for his biggest challenge. He wanted to run a marathon.
“Of course, I had to make my first one the Marine Corps Marathon (Washington, D.C.),” Boyle said. “My sister Michelle ran in the Marine Corps Marathon in 2000, so she knew what she was doing. She gave me a training schedule to get ready.”
Boyle had to build up his endurance before taking on the streets of the nation’s capital.
“It was a 16 week schedule,” Boyle said. “I had to work my way up.” So the leisurely strolls became longer, to five miles, then 10, then 15. “I had to be able to run five miles a day, three days a week,” Boyle said. “That’s how I started. After it got longer, it got tougher. The first time I did 13 miles, I thought that this was nuts. I took my shoes off, hit my bed and collapsed. I wondered, ‘How can I do this?’ It’s never easy. But I wasn’t going to quit. I never quit. I’m figured I was going to finish it or die trying.”
Boyle had never competed in a shorter race, like the traditional five or 10 kilometer road races that are popular throughout the area. He was determined to train for a marathon or bust.
“I told everyone that I was going for a marathon,” Boyle said. “I was going to finish or be humiliated for the rest of my life. Everyone thought I was crazy.”
True to his nature, Boyle finished the Marine Corps Marathon in 2009 in four hours and 20 minutes.
“It was right near the Iwo Jima Memorial,” Boyle said. “I was exhausted. I couldn’t walk right for a week. Right there and then, I thought that was it. I thought, `Who would want to do this again?’”
But Boyle did it again. He competed in the New Jersey Marathon in 2010 in Long Branch and finished in 4:05. He was getting better at it.
Boyle also ran the Philadelphia Marathon in 2010 and 2011. He hasn’t competed in a marathon since.
Four years ago, Boyle applied to run in the New York City Marathon, the biggest marathon in the world, with nearly 50,000 runners.
“It’s a lottery to get in,” Boyle said. “I didn’t think I’d get in.”
This year, Boyle received news that he was accepted for the NYC Marathon.
“It’s always been my goal to run New York,” Boyle said. “If you’re a runner, who doesn’t want to run New York? When you hear about marathons, the best one is New York. I’m very excited about it.”
Boyle said that it’s especially important this year, because the New York City Marathon was cancelled last year in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
“I think that makes it even more exciting,” Boyle said. “The race starts in Staten Island and the island was destroyed by the storm. I think this shows everyone that we’re back and getting better.”
Boyle remembers that he was on duty with the Kearny Fire Department for 40 hours straight last year due to the storm.
Boyle said that he’s in the best shape of his life now. He changed his training regimen.
“I used to run five days a week, but then I’d always have an ache or a pain that stopped me,” Boyle said. “Now, I run three days and the others, I cross train, either on a bike or something. I’m pretty much pain free now.”
Boyle said that he’s been doing 20 miles in training. He said he was physically prepared for the jaunt through the five boroughs.
“But who is really ever ready to run 26.2 miles?” Boyle asked. “But I’m going to finish. No question about that. Unless I break a leg, then I can’t. But at this point, it’s more mental than anything. I know I can finish, even with a year off. I have that determination on my side.”
Boyle finished the race Sunday in 4:30.29. He did it. He completed the NYC Marathon in his first attempt.
Boyle said that he will continue to train for future marathons. He’s already registered for the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon next October.
“I tell people that I’m running marathons and they say, ‘Why?’” Boyle said. “Most people don’t even like to drive 26.2 miles. I do it to say that I can. Obviously, fitness is important with what I do for a living.”
Boyle said that he has good support from his colleagues.
“They always support me,” Boyle said. “Jed Schappert (a fellow Kearny firefighter) ran the Marine Corps Marathon with me in 2009. So that’s good to have.”
It’s also good to know that Boyle has tackled yet another challenge in his life.