When the running boom of the late 1970s was at its peak, Bobby Doyle emerged as a world-class marathoner, and a source of great pride for the Ocean State. Bobby truly defined long distance running in Rhode Island, according to Don Allison, race director of the Amica Insurance Breakers Marathon in Newport. In 1976 he won the first of his seven Ocean State Marathon titles and went on to win that race in 1977, 1978, 1982, 1984, 1985 and 1990, when he was 41 years of age. Bobby finished 12th (1978), 7th (1979) and 5th (1985) at the prestigious Boston Marathon with a personal best of 2:14:03 in 1979. That marathon time still stands as the fastest ever by a native Rhode Islander. He competed for the United States in the 1979 Pan American Games in Puerto Rico and ran in the United States Olympic Marathon Trials in both 1980 and 1984. Bobby’s contributions to the sport of running continued throughout his life, until he died of a heart attack at the age of 58 in 2007.
Bobby Doyle was born in 1949, one of three children of Dorothy Doyle Dugdale and James Doyle. He lived the early part of his childhood in Pawtucket before moving with his family to Providence. Bobby began his illustrious running career in 1966 at Hope High School where he became an all state cross country runner and state record holder in the 2-mile run–both indoor and outdoor. He went on to become an All-American cross country runner at the University of Texas-El Paso, where he led his team to the program’s first NCAA Division 1 Championship.
Bobby returned to Rhode Island shortly after graduating with a degree in Biology and joined his brother Jim in operating Doyle’s Sporting Goods in Pawtucket from 1972 to 1993. A true student of his sport who never hesitated to share his knowledge, Doyle coached high school track and cross country runners beginning in the early 1990s. First he mentored runners at LaSalle Academy and then coached at Woonsocket High School for many years.
Bobby used his stature in the running community to assist in the fundraising efforts of numerous charities, including Special Olympics Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team-in-Training Program. His brother Jim, a highly successful coach for many years at Bishop Hendricken High School, said that his brother “was always there to lend a helping hand”.
Bobby was married to Lori Braz Doyle. He has two sons from his first marriage; Patrick, who ran at Providence College and is a teacher; and Brendan, a Rhode Island State Police officer, who ran at Iona College. Doyle also has three children from his second marriage; Brian, who runs for Northeastern University; Connor, who runs at Bishop Hendricken; and a ten-year-old daughter, Mackenzie. Bobby Doyle’s many friends in the running community continue to honor his memory and legacy with the Annual Bobby Doyle 5-mile Summer Classic, a non-profit road race that supports the Bobby Doyle Scholarship program and the Bobby Doyle Youth Running Fund.
– Michael E. Lyons