They were a father and son combo that demonstrated that no matter what challenges you face, hard work and perseverance would help you overcome them. The two have since gained notoriety as role models for people all around the world.
From Holland, Massachusetts, Dick Hoyt and his son Rick have completed more than 1,000 races, duathlons, and triathlons during the past 40 years. However, in the case of this pair, they are a team effort, with one unable to finish the race without the other.
Rick is restricted to a wheelchair because he was born with cerebral palsy. Doctors advised Rick’s parents that their son would perform better in a special care facility away from his family when he was born in 1962.
“We cried, but we talked and we said, ‘No, we’re not going to put Rick away. We’re gonna bring Rick home and bring him up like any other child,’” Dick Hoyt told ABC News in a past interview.
They were fortunate to find a doctor who agreed with them and advised them to treat Rick’s impairment as it didn’t exist.
“I’m just a dad, and it meant everything to me to be able to take my son home,” Dick added. “And as he grew up, we knew he was smart, and funny, and curious. It was our job as parents to make sure he received all of the opportunities everyone else has.”
Rick was raised in the love of his family, who even managed to buy him a computer so he could communicate. The contraption was created by Tufts University engineering students, and the Hoyt family dubbed it the Hope Machine.
For Rick, this was a game-changer because it allowed him to go to public school. When he was 15 years old, he made the decision to run a 5-mile race and asked his father if he could support him.
To demonstrate that life can go on despite a disability, Rick wanted to raise money for a paralysed lacrosse player at his school.
He trained with his father, retired Lieutenant Colonel Dick Hoyt of the Air National Guard, and the two finished the race together. Rick then said, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.”
Dick started exercising the following day so he and his son could compete in additional races together after realising what this meant to his kid.
While Rick was at school studying, the loving father began to run every day while pushing a bag of cement in his wheelchair. Over 1,100 endurance competitions, including 72 marathons and six Ironman Triathlons, were eventually participated in by the dynamic combination. They even completed 32 runs of the Boston Marathon.
In 1992, Dick and Rick cycled and ran 3,735 miles across the country in 45 days. For the swimming portion of triathlons, Dick swam while dragging his son on a raft, and for the cycling portion, he rode on a tandem bike that was especially made for the event.
Dick was able to significantly increase his fitness level, and despite pushing his son, he was still able to run a 5K in 17 minutes, setting a new personal best.
People sometimes concentrate on what people with disabilities cannot do, but with his family’s support and assistance, these two made sure to show the world that anything is possible.
On April 8, 2013, a bronze statue honouring the Hoyts was installed in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, close to the Boston Marathon’s starting line.
In an effort to provide young people with disabilities with as much normalcy in daily life, including athletics, the two co-founded the Hoyt Foundation in 1989.
After having some health issues, Dick Hoyt passed away in his sleep on March 17, 2021, at his home. At 80 years old, he was.
“He had an ongoing heart condition that he had been struggling with for years and it just got the better of him,” Russ Hoyt, one of the runner sons said.
Rob Hoyt, one of the brothers, told Rick the terrible news. Rick was devastated to learn of his father’s untimely passing.
“You could see it in him, it was like someone hit him,” he said.
Dick was a quiet man who always preferred that his son receive attention for their accomplishments.
“I knew the credit went to my son. He was my motivation. Something gets into me when I’m competing along with Rick that makes us go faster. My strength comes from him, as if it moves from his body into mine. The strength that I got from my son that day enabled us to become Ironmen,” Dick said.
However, his son was aware that his father had the fortitude to accomplish what they achieved.
“I also describe my dad as one of the most determined individuals I’ve ever met; not simply determined to help me in my life, but also to help others.” Rick said.
What these two accomplished and their commitment to one another are admirable. Rick was able to accomplish a lot because Dick never let him feel like he couldn’t do something.