It’s not often that becoming a legend is a family affair, but the Hoyt family is anything but average. Completing a marathon is no small feat even for the most accomplished athletes, but for father and runner Dick Hoyt, the payoff was far greater than anything a finish line could offer. Racing became a way for the athletic dad to bond with his son, and perhaps more importantly, it allowed his son to experience a level of freedom and adventure that may not otherwise be possible.
Dick Hoyt’s son Rick has cerebral palsy, and it wasn’t until age 11 that he got a computer that allowed him to communicate. Rick was finally able to attend public school, his assistive technology giving him the freedom to express his intelligence for the first time.
When a lacrosse player at his school became paralyzed, Rick asked his dad if they could run a race together to benefit his classmate. Rick wanted to show the world that having a disability didn’t have to keep you from living your life, and with his dad’s help, that’s exactly what he did.
Dick Hoyt wasn’t a runner at 36 years old after receiving the life-changing request from his son, so he became one. Hoyt began training, running with a bag of cement in a wheelchair while his son was at school. Between 1980 and 2014, the father-son duo competed in a staggering 1,130 endurance events. The inspiring pair crossed the finish line of 72 marathons, multiple Ironman Triathlons, and even crossed the entire US on foot and by bike – an astonishing 3,735 miles in just 45 days.
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On Wednesday, Dick Hoyt died peacefully in his sleep at age 80. The Boston Athletic Association said in a statement, “He was not only a fan-favorite who inspired thousands, but also a loyal friend and father who took pride in spending quality time with his son Rick while running from Hopkinton to Boston.”
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. https://t.co/glau0ryh4R pic.twitter.com/SYmvZfezW7
— B.A.A. (@BAA) March 17, 2021
Dick Hoyt embodied what it meant to be an athlete, racing with a purpose that was near and dear to his heart. Just as importantly, however, Dick embodied what it meant to be a dad.