After 32 Boston Marathons and over 1,000 races worldwide Dick and Rick Hoyt are calling it a day. The 2014 race yesterday is the last marathon for the father-son duo who have become legendary in the sports world.
Rick is 52 years old, Dick is 74. For over 35 years Dick has pushed Rick, who is a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, in a custom wheelchair, competing in road races, marathons, and triathlons. Theirs have become some of the most memorable faces in Boston on Patriot’s Day. There is even a statue of them at the race start in Hopkinton.
The Hoyts had planned to make 2013 their last marathon, but after being unable to finish their race due to the bombing, decided to return for another year. Dick has a back injury that is becoming increasingly painful, making it difficult to push Rick’s chair. They took their time this year to enjoy the race and save Dick’s back.
Rick and Dick’s fastest marathon was 2:48, in the Marine Corps race in Washington, D.C. Yesterday’s time was 7:37:33. They were joined at the finish line by members of Team Hoyt, an organization created by them to help physically disabled people become active members of the community. Dick says “It was very emotional. What was so nice about the finish, these people are fast runners but they waited until I caught up and we all came across together.”
The famed marathon has qualifying standards, and Dick and Rick had to qualify in Rick’s age group for their first official race. They ran as bandits their first two times after officials refused their entry, unsure about what category to put them in: runner or wheelchair?
The amazing racing career of the father-son pair includes six Ironman triathlons. During triathlons, which include a swim, a bike, and a run, Dick pulls Rick through the water in a 5-foot-long inflatable rubber boat, with a tow line attached to his waist. For the second triathlon leg Rick sits in a seat on the front of a specially made bike. And then there is their custom wheelchair for the run.
Dick Hoyt is retired from the Massachusetts Air National Guard, and now travels as a motivational speaker and for promotion of his book It’s Only A Mountain. The book, which is an account of raising Rick, is selling worldwide.
Running more than 1,000 distance races and triathlons would be exceptional for any individual. For the Hoyt duo it is nothing short of miraculous, and has inspired thousands of other with disabled children to push them in endurance races. It has also led to the formation of more than 20 volunteer groups who work to provide the same experience for disabled children and adults. Dick says the inspiration they provide to others is what has kept them going for so many years. They get emails and letters from people all over the world telling them about what an inspiration they are. Dick says Rick inspires and motivates him. “I’m just loaning him my legs and arms so that he can compete.”
Rick and Dick Hoyt have become the heart and soul of the Boston Marathon, but the era is over with their last marathon as a team. If Rick runs again, someone else will be pushing his wheelchair.
By Beth A. Balen