Rick Hoyt, Who Competed in Races With His Father, Dies at 61

Rick Hoyt, a regular at the Boston Marathon who competed in more than a thousand road races using a wheelchair pushed by his father, died on Monday. He was 61.

His death was announced by his family, who said the cause was complications with his respiratory system. Hoyt’s father, Dick Hoyt, died in March 2021 at the age of 80.

“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.

The pair competed nearly every year in the Boston Marathon from 1980 through 2014. In 2013, Dick and Rick Hoyt were honored with a bronze statue near the race’s starting line.

They completed more than 1,100 races together, including marathons, triathlons and duathlons, a combination of biking and running.

“I was running for Rick, who longed to be an athlete but had no way to pursue his passion,” Dick Hoyt wrote in his 2010 book, “Devoted: The Story of a Father’s Love for His Son.” “I wasn’t running for my own pleasure. I was simply loaning my arms and legs to my son.”

Richard Eugene Hoyt Jr. was born on Jan. 10, 1962, with cerebral palsy and the inability to move his limbs or speak. In 1972, he began using a specialized computer to help him communicate. His first words: “Go Bruins.”

Rick Hoyt’s first taste of road racing came in 1977, when he asked to participate in a charity run benefiting a lacrosse player who was paralyzed. Hoyt wanted to show the athlete that he, a quadriplegic teenager, was still active despite his challenges.

Dick Hoyt, 37 at the time, had not been an endurance athlete and had not aspired to marathon running. But he agreed to do the race with his son and they finished the five-mile course second to last.

The Hoyts during the Boston Marathon in 2013.Credit…Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

The Hoyts worked up to finishing many races in impressive times. They completed the 1992 Marine Corps Marathon in 2 hours 40 minutes 47 seconds, and finished a full Ironman — 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of bicycling and 26.2 miles of running — in 13:43:37.

They expected their 2013 Boston Marathon to be their final run from Hopkinton to Boston Common. But they were stopped at around Mile 25 because of the bombing at the finish line. The Hoyts vowed to come back, however, and raced their final Boston Marathon in 2014. They were slower than expected, Dick Hoyt said, mostly because they took the time to chat and hug fans and children in wheelchairs.

“Dick and Rick Hoyt have inspired millions around the world,” Dave McGillivray, a former race director of the Boston Marathon, said, adding: “We will always be grateful, Rick, for your courage, determination, tenacity and willingness to give of yourself so that others, too, could believe in themselves.”

Hoyt graduated from Boston University with a degree in special education in 1993. He is survived by his brothers, Russ and Rob. His mother, Judith Hoyt, a longtime advocate for children with disabilities, died in 2010. His father served in the Army National Guard and Air National Guard for 37 years and later became an inspirational speaker, sharing the story of his races with his son.

Rick Hoyt was working with McGillivray and Russell Hoyt on a race scheduled for this weekend, the Dick Hoyt Memorial ‘Yes You Can’ Run Together. The family is deciding whether to postpone the race or hold it as scheduled on Saturday in Hopkinton, Mass.

“I have a list of things I would do for you if I was not disabled,” Rick Hoyt wrote to his father in the final chapter of “Devoted.”

“Tops on that list: I would do my best to race the World Championship Ironman pulling, pushing and pedaling you. Then I would push you in the Boston Marathon,” he said.

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