Bowling Green's Joe Boyle has a tight window of opportunity to make his first-ever full marathon happen.
So tight, in fact, that he's got the 26.2 mile outdoor run scheduled for a "crazy" date: This Sunday - ice, snow and windchill notwithstanding.
That's because Boyle, a 39-year-old father of three who's battling metastasized kidney cancer, recently got the news he's been waiting and praying for. He's been accepted into a nationwide trial for a new immunotherapy drug, and the treatment is set to begin Feb. 14 at the Cleveland Clinic.
"In November I had an appointment with my oncologist, and he told me that my disease was progressing." That meant he would definitely have to get in on a trial for a new, experimental drug, something that - if he was fortunate enough to be chosen - might happen as soon as February or March.
"It pretty much threw down the gauntlet that if I was going to run a marathon, I was going to have to get to it."
He knows he probably won't be physically capable of any kind of running at all once he begins the new chemo.
So Boyle immediately began an aggressive regimen of workouts and runs in order to try to prepare his body for a marathon. It's a goal he's had since 2010, when he went on his first-ever run, Bowling Green's Couch Potato 5-K.
Planning to run the full marathon with Boyle are three close friends, one male and two female - and his doctor from the Cleveland Clinic, Brian Rini, M.D., who happens to be a veteran marathoner.
"He's the real deal; he's a real athlete."
Boyle emailed Dr. Rini mostly just to keep him up to date. "He's one of the top kidney people on the planet, and I was sure he wouldn't be able to join us, but he said 'if it's Feb. 2, I can be there.'"
The small BG group plans a 9 a.m. start time and a route that they hope to manage in 5 1/2 to 6 hours "if I'm really lucky. We've plotted out an 8 1/2-mile loop around the city" to be run three times in all.
The finish line will be St. Aloysius Catholic Church, where Boyle and his wife Katie are active parishioners and their children - ages 5, 8 and 11 - are enrolled in school.
"Some of the kids from school might come out and run part of this with us at City Park," Boyle added.
The only thing he's really worried about is the weather.
"The forecast right now says 21 and cloudy, which - compared with today - is like Florida! Our red line is 10 degrees. Less than that, it's pointless" to attempt a marathon.
Bottom line, "nobody's running this thing trying to set a record. This is strictly a survival race."
The halfway point of the planned route, mile 13, happens to be very near Boyle's house, "so I've invited to others to stash a pair of shoes and warm socks at the house" which they can change into since "layering is critically important.
"Toes are your number one problem."
Admittedly, nobody would plan a marathon for the first weekend of February if they had options, but Boyle doesn't.
Since day one, his approach to his sobering cancer diagnosis has been to defy negativity and focus on setting and achieving new goals, several of which were described in a Sentinel-Tribune article about Boyle that ran on Sept. 28, 2013.
"It's been a long time, with ups and downs."
For now, he continues to coach his son's cross-country team and to work his regular job as a social studies teacher at Rogers High School in Toledo.
"My treatments are going to start on Feb. 14, the 18th anniversary of when my wife and I started dating." The pair were students at Bowling Green State University "and we went down to Easy Street" for dinner.
Boyle isn't taking for granted the luck that landed him on the list for the upcoming clinical trial.
"There were very few spots nationwide. Cleveland Clinic only had five, and I got one of them. It's the hand of God in all of this."
His long-term plan is open ended.
"If it works, we stay on it. Our wildest hope is that I'm nauseated for a very long time," Boyle said, grinning.