The father-son duo ran over 1,100 races together. The marathoner lived a full and happy life with his son Rick and his family.
Dick Hoyt, the Boston marathoner who pushed his son wheelchair-bound son Rick Hoyt for dozens of marathons over the last few decades, has died at the age of 80. According to Today, Hoyt's death was announced by the Boston Athletic Association on Wednesday. "We are tremendously saddened to learn of the passing of Boston Marathon icon Dick Hoyt. Dick personified what it means to be a Boston Marathoner, finishing 32 races with son Rick. We are keeping his many family & friends in our prayers," the organization said in a tweet. CBS Boston revealed that Dick was dealing with a few health issues recently and that he died in his sleep.
The dedicated father and his son, Rick Hoyt, residents of Holland, Massachusetts, were regulars at marathons since their first race, and rather unconventional ones, too. The amazing father-son duo has completed 32 Boston marathons together, with Dick pushing his son Rick in a customized wheelchair for the entire 26.2 miles of the marathon all 32 times! They had garnered a lot of attention and were lovingly known as "Team Hoyt."
The BAA shared on their website that "the pair’s bond and presence throughout the course became synonymous with the Boston Marathon." It also said: "Team Hoyt’s 1,000th race together came at the 2009 Boston Marathon, and in 2015 Dick served as Grand Marshal of the race in recognition of his impact on the event and Para Athlete community."
Dick didn't let his son's disability get in the way of achieving the success of completing a marathon for both of them. You see, Rick, 59, was born with cerebral palsy at birth after his umbilical cord became wrapped around his neck, blocking the flow of oxygen to his brain. He was thus diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic.
“They said, ‘Forget Rick, put him away, put him in an institution, he’s going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life,’” Dick Hoyt told TODAY in 2013. While people told him that Rick would be nothing but a burden in the future, the father refused to give up.
Doctors had also reportedlt suggested to Dick and his late wife, Judy Hoyt, about institutionalizing their son, but the couple chose against it and raised their son themselves. Rick was raised just like any other child even though he couldn’t speak or use his arms or legs. They took him camping, cross-country skiing and swimming at the beach with his two younger brothers, and basically lived his life to the fullest. Dick and Judy even sent Rick to a public school. Despite being born with a condition as challenging as cerebral palsy, Rick Hoyt not only graduated from highschool but he also attended Boston University and graduated from college.
"Today he’s 51 years old and we still haven’t figured out what kind of vegetable he is — and guess what? That vegetable has been turned into a bronze statue,” said Dick at the time. Yep, that's right, the father and son have been memorialized in a life-sized bronze statue at the starting line of the Boston Marathon the same year.
The duo began running back in 1977 after Rick came back from school one day to tell his dad about how he wanted to run for a friend who was left paralyzed because of an accident. A charity road race was conducted to help the student pay their medical bills.
“Rick came home from that basketball game and he said, ‘Dad, I have to do something for him. I want to let him know that life goes on even though he’s paralyzed. I want to run in the race,’” Dick Hoyt recalled. At the time Dick had never partaken in a race before, but he wanted to do it for his son. So, he pushed his son in a heavy, box-shaped chair with handles on top and finished the race.
"YES YOU CAN”: Dick Hoyt, the dad famous for completing more than 30 Boston Marathons with his quadriplegic son, has passed away at 80. @willganss reports on his inspiring legacy. pic.twitter.com/ysla3SFVPA— ABC World News Now (@abcWNN) March 18, 2021
“We came in next to last, but not last,” said Dick. “When we got home that night, Rick wrote on his computer, ‘Dad when I’m running, it feels like my disability disappears’ — which was a very powerful message to me."
Eventually, the Hoyt's created a customized wheelchair for Rick and went on to complete more than 1,100 races together, including at least 257 triathlons. “It gives me a great feeling inside to see other families run with their family member with a disability, or for people without disabilities to push people who are disabled in races,” said Dick. “We run for the people who think they can’t run.”
Cover image source: Getty Images (Photo by Elsa)