Dick Hoyt Exemplified “Boston Strong” Before the Phrase Existed

Dick Hoyt Exemplified “Boston Strong” Before the Phrase Existed

Dick Hoyt, who became a New England icon for pushing his son, Rick, who has cerebral palsy, in a wheelchair through athletic events, died on March 17th. 

He was 80. 

Dick passed away in his home in Holland, Massachusetts while he was asleep Wednesday morning, according to the Associated Press

Dick Hoyt made 2 great decisions for Rick early on

His son, Rick, was born a quadriplegic and with cerebral palsy when he came into this world on January 10th, 1962. The doctors suggested that the Hoyt’s put him in an institution. They said, “He’s gonna be nothing but a vegetable for the rest of his life.” 

 Despite the doctors’ suggestion, Dick wanted Rick to live a normal life. So, Rick came home to life with the rest of the Hoyt’s in Holland, Ma. 

The Hoyt’s wanted to get Rick a computer, so he could properly express his thoughts. In 1972, Tufts University engineers created an interactive computer for Rick, according to the official site of Team Hoyt.

Once the computer was finished, one question remained. What were Rick’s first words going to be? The speculation was reaching a fever-pitch. 

Well, as a New Englander living through the golden age of Bobby Orr and the rest of Boston’s finest on Causeway Street, Rick’s first words were “Go, Bruins!”. 

Rick, like so many kids, longed to participate in sports. In the spring of 1977, there was a charity race for a paralyzed lacrosse player. When Rick heard about this 5-mile race, he asked his dad if they could enter as a team. Dick jumped at the opportunity.

Dick pushed Rick in a wheel-chair for the entire 5 miles, coming in second to last. But, as Dick was quick to emphasize when telling this story, not last. That night after the race, Rick wrote something that changed both of their lives forever. 

“Dad, when I’m running, it feels like my disability disappears.” 

Rick and Dick Hoyt re-defined the term “possible’

Dick was thrilled Rick had finally found a sport. So for the next three and a half decades, Rick and Dick, better known as Team Hoyt, became the most inspiring father-son story in the history of American sports. 

They competed in their first Boston Marathon in 1980. Dick pushed Rick, who was seated in a wheelchair designed for these athletic competitions, the entire 26.2 miles. It would be the first of the 32 Boston Marathons the father and son team would run in. Their fastest time on the historic course was 2:48:51 in 1986. 

But their best marathon ever recorded was in 1992 at the Marine Corps Marathon. The time clocked Rick and Dick at 2:40:47, good for 57th overall and 1st in the age grouping of 50-59, according to Team Hoyt’s website. 

While the tandem became best known, especially around these parts, for their marathons, 72 to be exact, they were far from 1 event specialists. 

More than Marathoners

As of March 22nd, 2016, the two competed in 1,130 events. Team Hoyt finished 22 Duathlons, biked and ran across the United States in 45 consecutive days, and completed 257 Triathlons, including 6 Ironmans. 

An Ironman is 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles cycling, and 26.22 miles running. The best Ironman time for Team Hoyt was an incredible 13:43:37. 

For the swim portions, Dick pulled Rick along in a boat with a cord attached to the elder Hoyt’s chest.

Throughout all their events, Dick always wanted to point out who the real athlete of the duo was. 

“Rick is my motivator, he inspires me,” Dick said. “To me, he is the one out there competing, and I’m just loaning him my arms and my legs so he can compete.”

Dick stated that he actually, believe or not, goes faster pushing Rick along. 

“Boston’s Strongest”

Dick and Rick’s last Boston Marathon was in 2014. They were expecting 2013 to be their final time on the course but could not complete the race due to the bombing at the finish line. So, in a rather fitting conclusion, Dick and Rick’s last Boston Marathon together was in 2014, when the meaning of the race had changed forever. 

After the tragic events in 2013, the Boston Marathon took on bigger importance to the city. “Boston Strong” became synonymous with showing pride in your community, rising to the occasion, and refusing to give up when challenges arise. 

Does that not sound exactly like a description of Dick Hoyt? The man was “Boston Strong” long before 2013. 

Dick Hoyt was an incredible person whose love for his son knew no bounds. He was able to accomplish athletic achievements he never would have contemplated tackling had Rick not been there to push him. 

While Dick is gone, his powerful legacy will not be forgotten. 

Dick will be remembered whenever anyone gazes upon the bronze statue of the two near the Boston Marathon starting line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. His presence will be there whenever a parent competes in a race with their disabled child.

Dick Hoyt truly left this world in a better place than he found it. 

May he rest in peace. 

Story by Chad Jones