Monday will mark the 117th running of the Boston Marathon – the “Grandaddy of Them All,” as it is called. The Boston Marathon has so many special and unique aspects to it – its elite nature, challenging course, and deep-rooted history. And for 31 years, it has also been blessed with the presence of Dick and Rick Hoyt. Team Hoyt.
Rick Hoyt was born to Dick and his wife Judy in 1962. Deprived of oxygen during his birth, Rick was diagnosed a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, unable to walk, speak or effectively use his hands. Rick was fortunate to be born to Dick and Judy, who refused to accept his limitations passively. They recognized his strong intelligence early on and sought every means possible to help him develop ways of communicating and interacting with the outside world. And he does. Early in his life, experts recommended that he be institutionalized; instead, with the aid of a special computer, he was able to attend public school by the age of 13. He graduated from Boston University in 1993 with a degree in Special Education. He has even, with his father and co-author Todd Civen, authored a book, “One Letter at a Time.” I know the next book on my reading list.
Dick and Rick’s first race together was a 5-miler to benefit a local youth who had become paralyzed in an accident. Dick pushed Rick in his wheelchair for the whole 5 miles, and afterward, Rick communicated to his father that while running, he didn’t feel handicapped. That’s all Dick had to hear to know that more races were in their future. And so began Team Hoyt, which has competed in over 1,000 races, including marathons, duathlons, triathlons (including 6 Ironman Competitions!!).
I’d like to note that Dick was not even a distance runner before that first five-miler they did together. Talk about the depths of fatherly love.
Although the Hoyts have competed in many races, they have a special connection to the Boston Marathon. They began racing the marathon in 1981 and will compete in their 31st on Monday. As a former Bostonian, I can say with authority that the Hoyts are legends in the area and certainly the most popular and moving participants in the race. I get chills thinking of how many times I would crane my neck from the sidelines to watch them approach, father pushing son every step of the way. That sight always brought the loudest cheers, the most tears and the most touching images for we, the spectators.
Fitting their status as legends, a life-sized bronze statue of Team Hoyt was unveiled a few days ago near the starting line in Hopkinton.
A plaque at the bottom includes Team Hoyt’s slogan: Yes You Can. Certainly, no one signifies that message better than Dick and Rick Hoyt, who will be 72 and 51, respectively when they compete on Monday. Good luck, Team Hoyt. I’ll be watching!
To learn more about the Hoyts, their story, their races and their foundation, you can visit www.teamhoyt.com.