A Father’s Special Dedication: The Racing World of Dick and Rick Hoyt

Updated on June 5, 2018
Readmikenow profile image

Readmikenow enjoys writing about unique and interesting people. He likes to learn about individuals who live or have lived unusual lives.

Dick and Rick Hoyt in Ironman Triathlon
Dick and Rick Hoyt in Ironman Triathlon

They've been in many races as father and son. This includes marathons as well as Ironman Triathlons and more. Winning any race has never been their goal. Simply finishing the race within the allotted time is what makes them feel like winners. Rick Hoyt was born with cerebral palsy. His father is Richard Eugene “Dick” Hoyt. A man determined to not let his son's special need keep him from being in races. They never quit. Dick and Rick Hoyt have never quit a race. They live for their special love and dedication to one another. Rick has said, "Dad, when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore."

Racing With His Son

During an Ironman Triathlon, Dick Hoyt will push his son in a special wheelchair during the running portion of the race. He will then place his son on a special seat in the front of a bicycle for the bike riding portion of the race. Rick Hoyt is also placed in a special type of boat for the swimming portion of the race.

Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis

Both parents were informed about Rick having cerebral palsy at his birth. It resulted from Rick's umbilical cord being tight around his neck. This resulted in oxygen not being able to flow into his body. This incident caused Rick's brain to not be unable to send the right messages to his muscles. The Hoyts had many doctors examine their son to see what could be done. Most of them told them Rick would never be anything but a vegetable. All of them advised the parent to institutionalize their son. They refused.

Early photograph of Dick and Rick Hoyt
Early photograph of Dick and Rick Hoyt

Hope and Success

After a period of time, the Hoyts met with a doctor in Boston who worked at Children's Hospital. He encouraged the parents to treat their son like other children. Dick's wife is named Judy, and she spent hours each day trying to teach Rick the alphabet with sandpaper letters. They also posted signs on each object in the house and helped Rick learn to read them. It took some time and persistence, but eventually, Rick learned the alphabet and could read.

Computer Communication

At the age of 12, Rick was given a computer that made it possible for him to communicate. For the first time in his life, Rick was able to tell his parents how much he loved them and their family. This also made it possible for education professionals to realize Rick was very intelligent. The communication device enabled Rick to attend public school. After finishing there, he then attended Boston University and graduated with a degree in special education. Rick later went on to be employed by the Boston College computer lab.

Dick and Rick Hoyt during early race
Dick and Rick Hoyt during early race

Creation of Team Hoyt

It was 1977 when Rick Hoyt heard about a road race that would help a lacrosse player from his school who recently became paralyzed. He had a desire to participate in the race to help the lacrosse player. Rick told his father about it. The problem was that Dick Hoyt was not a runner and had never had any desire to be a runner. He was moved by the desire to help he saw in his son's face. He realized Rick had a very compassionate nature. Dick Hoyt would find to help his son participate in the race.

Dick and Rick Hoyt during bicycle portion of race
Dick and Rick Hoyt during bicycle portion of race

Racing Achievements

As of 2016, Dick and Rick Hoyt had competed together in over 1,125 endurance events. This includes more than 71 marathons as well as seven Ironman triathlons. The Boston Marathon has been completed by the Hoyts 32 times. They also did more than compete in races. Dick and Rick Hoyt ran and biked the entire length of the United States. It took them 45 days to complete a distance of 3,735 miles.

Dick and Rick Hoyt during swimming portion of Ironman triathlon
Dick and Rick Hoyt during swimming portion of Ironman triathlon

Swan Song

All good things must come to an end. When Dick Hoyt reached the age of 73, and Rick Hoyt was 52, the father and son team who had inspired so many people felt it was time to give up competing in races. Initially, they were going to make the 2013 Boston Marathon their last race. It had always been their favorite race to run. The terrorist bombing that year made many runners unable to finish the race. Dick and Rick Hoyt were stopped at the 23-mile mark. They were determined to not let this be their last race. The father and son team made the 2014 Boston Marathon their grand finale. At the end of the race, Dick was interviewed by a local Boston media. He told reporters how he and Rick were glad to be in the race for the people who got killed or wounded the previous year.

A Father's Determination

Dick Hoyt agreed to be in the race and pushed Rick for the entire five miles in a wheelchair. Dick Hoyt thought this race would be it. Then Rick communicated to him on the computer that when they were together in the race, he felt like his disability had disappeared. This statement changed the life of both father and son. During the next 37 years, they would participate in many different races. Dick's determination to help Rick led him to start running every day. He would train with bags of cement in a wheelchair, on a bike or in a boat since Rick was always busy studying or attending school.

Dick and Rick Hoyt crossing finish line at Boston Marathon
Dick and Rick Hoyt crossing finish line at Boston Marathon

The Hoyt Foundation

In 1989, Dick and Rick Hoyt worked with others to create a non-profit organization known as the Hoyt Foundation. The goal of the organization is to help those with disabilities in the United States build self-esteem and self-confidence. This is done by inclusion in the family as well as community activities including school, sports as well as the workplace. This is encouraged by Dick and Rick Hoyt at their speaking engagements. They speak at professional as well as community events, group meetings and more.

Dick and Rick Hoyt at dedication for their bronze statute
Dick and Rick Hoyt at dedication for their bronze statute

Bronze Statue

On April 8, 2013, Dick and Rick Hoyt were honored with a bronze statue of them running a race. It is a life-size bronze statue that was commissioned by John Hancock. The dedication of the statue occurred in Hopkinton, Massachusetts near the place where the Boston Marathon begins. The official name of the statue is the same as Team Hoyt's tagline, Yes, You can.

Dick and Rick Hoyt during interview
Dick and Rick Hoyt during interview

Today, Dick and Rick Hoyt still keep close communication with one another. Rick has his own apartment, as he has home care, and is employed. Dick has retired from the military and lives in Holland, Massachusetts. They still get together and travel around the United States giving speeches. One Father's Day Rick was asked what he would like to give his father if he could give him anything. Rick told everyone that he would like most to be able to have his dad sit in a chair, and he have the ability to push his father for once.

Questions & Answers

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      • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        9 months ago

        Flourish Anyway, I agree this is a special story. Dick's wife Judy Hoyt died in 2010 and according to her obit. they had three sons.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        9 months ago from USA

        This is very touching. Is this the couple’s only child?

      • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        9 months ago

        Mary thanks. Dick and Rick Hoyt have accomplished some amazing things.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        9 months ago from Ontario, Canada

        Thank you for sharing this story. A family that cares can do almost anything. What a lesson to us all.

      • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        9 months ago

        Bill, thanks. I agree with you, they are an inspiration to all.

      • bdegiulio profile image

        Bill De Giulio 

        9 months ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Mike. I am very familiar with the Hoyt's as I also live in western Massachusetts. I have crossed paths with them numerous times at local triathlons and road races over the last 30 years, and I can you that what they have accomplished together is astounding. The picture you included of them crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon shows the clock with a time of 3:08:27. That is an incredible achievement. What is even more incredible is that they have a marathon PR of 2:40:17. That may not mean much to someone who does not run, but trust me, that is beyond amazing, especially when you consider that Dick is pushing a chair with Rick in it.

        Great job bringing a heartwarming and amazing story to light. They have retired from racing, but certainly through their speaking engagements continue to deliver the message that anything is possible.

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