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Ocean State Great Bobby Doyles Passes On

On Friday, Dec. 14, Merry Nelson of the Rhode Island-based Organization Plus Timing Service e-mailed NER with some shocking news – RI’s most prolific distance runner, Bobby Doyle, had died en route to a Fall River Hospital. There was no additional news at the moment but over the weekend details of the tragedy emerged.

Doyle, 58, of Tiverton, began having chest pains around 6 am on Friday, Dec. 14. His wife, Lori, was headed to the hospital when Bobby went into cardiac arrest. She then detoured to the nearby N. Tiverton fire station where rescue personnel saw to Bobby before transporting him to a Fall River hospital. Efforts to save him failed.

The most prolific marathoner to ever emerge from the Ocean State, Doyle was a two-time US Olympic Marathon Trials participant and finished within the top 10 at the Boston Marathon three times, with a best of 2:14:04 in 1979. His best placing, however, was as a 36 year-old living in Seekonk, MA, when he finished 5th in 2:21:31 in hot and muggy conditions.

From the May/June issue of Boston Running News: Bobby Doyle, the tough redhead from Seekonk, MA, definitely did not appreciate the heat: “My legs were gone at the 17th or 18th mile and I was still catching people, that’s how bad it was…I missed three weeks of training (ankle) otherwise I would have been able to keep a faster pace.”
Doyle, a five-time Ocean State Marathon champion, was slightly amazed that he finished. “I didn’t have a lot of confidence,” he said. “I was just feeling my way through the race. After I lost my legs at 18, I thought I would have to stop at 24, but you just keep telling yourself, ‘one more mile.’

Doyle actually won the Ocean State Marathon seven times, beginning with the inaugural race in 1976 and finishing in 1990 at the age of 42 when NER’s headline read: Doyle in 7th Heaven at Newport Marathon. By winning the Delta Dental of Rhode Island Marathon for the seventh time, Bobby Doyle, 42, of Pawtucket, joined Grete Waitz (New York, nine times) and Clarence DeMar (Boston, seven times) in dominance of a single marathon.

A standout runner at Hope High School (RI), Doyle held the state record in both the indoor and outdoor 2-Mile and went on to become an All American cross country runner at the University of El Paso-Texas where he was part of the first the team that won the program’s first NCAA D1 XC Championship.

Returning home, in 1972 Bobby joined his older brother Jimmy in operating Doyle’s Sporting Goods store in Pawtucket for two decades. In the early 1990s, Bobby started coaching high school runners. he was at La Salle Academy for a few years and then at Woonsocket High School ever since.

In his early 50’s, Bobby ventured onto the roads again and made a brief yet dominant appearance at RI road races. In June of this year, his son Brendan, a state trooper, suffered a near-fatal injury attempting to subdue a reckless driver and hitting his head on a curb while falling backwards. Fortunately, Brendan is making a successful recovery.

In addition to his wife, Lori, and brother Jimmy, Bobby leaves behind a sister, four sons and a daughter.

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