Brian Boyle knows all about going the extra mile. As an Ironman finisher who has also tackled 100-mile ultramarathons, the 31-year-old from Washington D.C. is an accomplished endurance athlete. Beyond that, however, he’s a fighter, a survivor of a horrific car accident and, with a “just-live-life” attitude, he’s the perfect person to author a children’s book about determination.
That’s why with his wife, Pam, a pediatric nurse, he co-authored Swim Bark Run (Sky Pony Press), a title released on June 5 that uses canines as the catalyst to get kids (pre-k to third grade) moving and making healthy choices.
The star of the book is an eager bulldog named Daisy –inspired by Boyle’s family dog — who, after watching her owner compete in numerous triathlons, decides to gather her canine friends to participate in one themselves.
They swim across a pond, skateboard instead of bike, and run through a park on their way to the finish line. Along the way, the race gets tough, but that’s where the real lessons reside, according to Boyle.
“It’s those moments where you allow people to rally around you, and you push forward to accomplish those goals you’ve set,” Boyle said. “The story’s themes center around dedication, overcoming adversity, goal-setting and teamwork.”
And those are themes embedded in Boyle’s life, too. When he was 18, he spent more than two months in the ICU after a dump truck struck his car as he was on his way home from high school swim practice.
In the accident, his heart shifted to the other side of his body, his ribs shattered, he suffered a broken pelvis, a lacerated liver and kidney, a collapsed lung and he coded eight times in the emergency room.
His recovery was an ultra event, to put it lightly. The fact that he’s putting his body to the test after all of that is a miracle in itself.
He wrote about the accident in Iron Heart: The True Story of How I Came Back From the Dead (released in 2009), and because the book has been a big success, especially in high school and college curriculums, he wanted to inject some of the same themes from the narrative into the minds of young readers.
“That’s where Swim Bark Run comes from,” he explained. “Iron Heart is very intense for elementary school students, so we thought writing a children’s book in a light-hearted way using dogs as the platform would be a good way to advocate for health and wellness.”
So, the Boyles began working on it three years ago and they connected with illustrator Beth Hughes to really make the story come to life.
The response for far?
“Children are fans of it, especially when Daisy’s going up the hill and she’s having a hard time, and she says the tag line: ‘Go, Daisy, go. Swim, bark, run. Go, Daisy, go. Just have fun.’ It’s kind of the book’s rally cry and kids get into it,” Boyle said.
The Boyles plan on visiting schools to read their book to young students this fall. Until then, they’ll continue to entertain their 11-month-old, Clara, with the story.
“We want youth not to just read the book and say, ‘you know what? I’m going to do a triathlon.’ We want them to say ‘you know what? I’m going to set a goal, go on adventures, embrace my support system and just live life to the fullest,'” Boyle said.
As for Boyle, he’s living his life to the fullest. He just completed his first Xterra off-road triathlon and has plans to take on IRONMAN Maryland come September.
Go, Brian, go. Swim, bark, run. And, when time allows, we all hope you continue to add “writing” to your event list.