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February 22, 2024

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Cancer patient organizes, completes marathon


Joe Boyle, kidney cancer patient, runs in 9 mile marathon across Bowling Green with family, friends and community members to support Boyle’s love for running.

Joe Boyle didn’t ask to be put in the spotlight.

Diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2011, Boyle compiled a bucket list. One of those items on his list was to run a marathon with a few close friends, something doctors told him would be impossible to do.

What he wasn’t expecting was hundreds of friends, family and community members asking him if they could run with him. Word spread about the marathon, which sparked the interested of old college friends, distant relatives, fellow runners and the media.

“The sense of community and love I felt that day was so empowering,” Boyle said, an adjunct history professor. “If there’s one thing I hope my kids learn it’s that you can’t stop love.”

The marathon took place Sunday, Feb. 2 where everyone ran about 9 miles across town and through the University campus.

Boyle was overwhelmed with emotion as friends and family members showed up at his doorstep, one by one.

“It was incredible; over the course of 15 minutes it went from a couple of us in the parking lot to over a hundred people there,” Boyle said.

While Boyle was teaching at Rogers High School in Toledo one afternoon, he didn’t feel very well, enough that he told the principal he had to go home.

“I tried to sleep and shake it off like no big deal, but it got to the point where I had to go to the emergency room,” Boyle said.

His wife Katie took him to the Wood County Hospital where he began to joke around as if he were fine, not knowing the news the doctor would tell his family next.

“I knew it was serious when two doctors came in,” he said. “Just the look on their faces was horrible.”

Boyle had developed a large tumor growing on his kidney where he was sent to the Cleveland Clinic to have surgery in April 2011. After surgery in mid-April, Boyle discovered another problem on his leg– a blood clot.

His doctor told him he wouldn’t be able to run again.

“I was more upset hearing that than I was when I told I had cancer,” Boyle said. “I felt they were taking away something that was so important in my life.”

Boyle had no idea he would love working out when he first started running.

“My love for running came really late,” Boyle said. “I packed on a lot of weight after college.”

Boyle had the opportunity to go on a two-week trip to Africa when he went back to graduate school where he was constantly involved in outdoors activities, such as climbing mountains.

Boyle went on this trip weighing around 240 pounds. He was constantly around younger people and college students who were much more fit than him.

“This was an eye-opening event for me,” he said.

Because everyone was doing it, Boyle said he did it, too.

“I thought to myself, if I can do this, climb a mountain, what else can I do?” he said. “It was this moment for me.”

Weeks after Boyle got back from his trip, he and his wife participated in their first 5k run called the Couch Potato 5K.

“We started walking and then started running in 5K marathons,” he said. “I thought to myself how fun this was, so I started running late at night, so young people wouldn’t see me, and it was amazing to see the progress after running.”

After Boyle learned about his new love for running, he participated in as many marathons he could.

But in September 2011, Boyle’s cancer spread to his lungs, putting him in stage 4 cancer.

“It’s a crazy place to be,” Boyle said.

After multiple doctor visits, Boyle’s doctor, Dr. Brian Rini, a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic told him in November that he could do “pretty much whatever I want to do for the next four months with no crazy treatments,” Boyle said.

Rini, a runner himself, agreed to participated in the run.

“It was really great and important for me to meet his family and be a part of it,” Rini said. “It was amazing to see everyone come together the way they did.”

Owner Amy Craft of For Keeps, a jewelry and gift shop in downtown, was one who ran in the marathon across town, feeling more proud than ever to see the success, she said.

“People from all around town were offering to provide things for all of the runners. It was just amazing to be a part of,” Craft said

Even though Boyle doesn’t know what will happen now, his experience last Sunday gave him and his family a whole new perspective on life.

“I told my kids this coming home [from the marathon]: memorize every part of today and remember what all these people did today,” Boyle said. “Because the impressive thing wasn’t running 26 miles …. It was the power of friendship, the power of love and the power of community. I hope [my kids] realize how much love there is.”

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