Boston Marathon Icon With Cerebral Palsy Dies
Boston Marathon icon Rick Hoyt died Monday after respiratory system complications, his family said in an Instagram post. He was 61.
Rick Hoyt, along with his father, Dick Hoyt, were known for being a team in the Boston Marathon and for their efforts to inspire and include athletes with disabilities. Dick Hoyt died in March 2021 at the age of 80.
“As so many knew, Rick along with our father, Dick, were icons in the road race and triathlon worlds for over 40 years and inspired millions of people with disabilities to believe in themselves, set goals and accomplish extraordinary things,” the statement read.
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The family also remembered Rick Hoyt for being a “pioneer in education.”
“His mother Judy Hoyt changed the laws allowing her son to be educated alongside his non-disabled peers,” the family wrote. “His family is heartbroken and requests time to grieve and will share details as they become available.”
The father-son duo began in Westfield in 1977 after Rick Hoyt, a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, told his father, then a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Regional Airport, he wanted to participate in a five-mile run to benefit a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident.
“When Rick got home that night, he spelled out on his computer: ‘Dad, when I’m running, I feel like I’m not even handicapped.’ And just to be there for that and see that, and then see it evolve into what it became … it’s just amazing,” Russ Hoyt told the Associated Press. “The first time they ran the Boston Marathon, they weren’t given numbers, because they didn’t have a category. They weren’t runners, and they weren’t ‘wheelchair athletes,’ so they didn’t know what to do.”
They later became the first duo to complete the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii in 1989. Using an inflatable boat attached to a bungee pulled by Dick Hoyt, a bike with a seat on the handlebars for Rick Hoyt, and a custom-made jogger for Rick Hoyt to sit in, the Hoyts finished the grueling 140.6-mile triathlon in 14:26:04.
The duo continued to participate in marathons and races through “Team Hoyt” and the Hoyt Foundation, a nonprofit that helps young people with disabilities in the country. In 2021, MetroWest Daily News reported Rick Hoyt was unable to continue participating in long-distance races after requiring 24-hour care.
He told the news outlet he would miss the crowd.
“My favorite part of the marathon is the support of the crowd. From our first marathon in 1981 to my last marathon in 2017 the crowd was very supportive to me,” he told MetroWest.
But the thing he said he’d miss the most was spending time with his dad.
“The crowd’s support is one but the thing I miss most is spending time with Dad,” he said months after his dad’s death, according to the news outlet.
Dick Hoyt “had an ongoing heart condition that he had been struggling with for years,” Russ Hoyt told the AP when he died in 2021.
“And it just got the better of him,” he said.
The Boston Athletic Association remembered Rick Hoyt Monday.
“We are fortunate to have been able to call Rick a friend, mentor, pioneer and Boston Marathon finisher,” the statement read. “His legacy will live on through the Rick & Dick Hoyt Award, which is presented each April around the Boston Marathon to someone who exhibits the spirit of Team Hoyt through advocacy and inclusion.”
The Dick Hoyt Memorial “Yes You Can” Road Race was scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 27 in Hopkinton. The family and foundation said it is still making a decision if it will continue as scheduled or will be postponed.
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