Dick Hoyt died a few days ago. His is not your ordinary obit. There is no time for tears when celebrating a life so well-lived.
Hoyt, 80, could have joined the pity parade after his son Rick was born with a severe form of cerebral palsy 59 years ago. Instead, he got up and ran, with Rick in tow.
Together, they competed in thousands of races, including marathons and triathlons. They competed in the iconic Boston Marathon from 1980 to 2014. Dick did all the heavy lifting, pushing his son bound by a wheelchair, across the finish line all those times.
Their first competitive event was a five-mile benefit run in the spring of 1977. Dick pushed Rick the entire distance. They finished next to last, but no one was keeping score. Since then, for decades, they paved an inspirational journey for people with disabilities and their families worldwide.
“When my dad and I are out there on a run, a special bond forms between us,” Rick Hoyt told The New York Times in 2009, with the help of his computer voice program. “And it feels like there is nothing Dad and I cannot do.”
They ran their fastest marathon in 1992 at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington and Virginia. Their time of 2 hours 40 minutes 47 seconds, placed Hoyt first in the 50-to-59 age division, despite the extra weight he carried along the way.
But it was never about the time. It was always about the father-and-son journey.
“We had long since learned how to interpret our son’s smiles and nods,” Dick Hoyt wrote in his 2010 book, “Devoted: The Story of a Father’s Love for His Son.”
Rick Hoyt is unable to speak. His head and knees are the only parts of his body he can move voluntarily.
“Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not disabled,” Rick told his father after that first race, according to the website of Team Hoyt, the charity the family established to help disabled athletes.
Rick was once asked that if he could give his father one thing, what would it be?
“The thing I’d most like is for my dad to sit in the chair and I would push him for once.”
Growing Bolder spoke to Dick Hoyt about their incredible adventures in an in-depth conversation in 2014. Click here to listen to his entire interview.