Rick Hoyt, whose father pushed him in his wheelchair for 32 Boston Marathons, has died at age 61. Together with his father Dick, who passed away in 2021, he competed in numerous athletic competitions and provided inspiration to differently-abled people around the world. According to his family, Hoyt died from complications with his respiratory system.
Hoyt was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth and was confined to a wheelchair. When he was 11 years old, he began using a computer to type out his thoughts. Though his father was not an athlete, the duo began to compete in races starting in 1977. At the time, Hoyt wanted to compete in a five-mile race to benefit a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed. In an interview, he explained, “I wanted to show this person that life goes on and he could still lead a productive life.”
Dick pushed Hoyt's wheelchair, and they came in second to last. From there, Dick began training, as Hoyt told his father that when they were running, it felt like his disability disappeared. Over the next four decades, they ran over 1,000 races. This included not only marathons but also duathlons and triathlons. They completed 6 Ironmans, with his father pulling him in a boat during the swimming portion.
They were most known for their participation in the Boston Marathon, which they first ran in 1980. Hoyt called it his favorite race. A familiar team on the course, they would visit schoolchildren in Hopkinton, the town where the race begins, to share their inspirational story. In 2013, they were set to finish their last Boston Marathon together but were turned back due to the tragic bombing at the finish line. They came back in 2014, with his father pushing him one last time before retiring from competition. From 2015 until 2019, Hoyt completed another five Boston Marathons being pushed by dentist Bryan Lyons.
In 2013, a bronze statue of Rick and Dick Hoyt was erected in Hopkinton, close to the starting line of the marathon. That same year, ESPN honored them with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award.
Hoyt's legacy lives on through the Hoyt Foundation, which was created in 1989 to “build the individual character, self-confidence and self-esteem of America’s disabled young people through inclusion in all facets of daily life.” In honor of his legacy, they held their annual Dick Hoyt Memorial “Yes You Can” Run Together in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, on May 27 (just days after Rick’s death) as previously scheduled.
As the participants gathered for the race, Hoyt’s wheelchair adorned with hydrangeas and pictures greeted them at the starting line. With over 600 racers at the event, including 20 “duo” teams (like Rick and Dick), there was certainly an air of remembrance and gratitude for Rick’s amazing spirit and his attitude that was exemplified by his motto, “Yes, You Can.”
Rick Hoyt, who completed over 30 Boston Marathons with his father pushing his wheelchair, passed away at age 61.
Hoyt, who had cerebral palsy, told his father that when he ran, it felt like he didn't have a disability.
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His legacy lives on through the Hoyt Foundation, which promotes self-confidence and inclusion for young people with disabilities.
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