The first thing I noticed about Dick Hoyt when we met is his muscles. His legs are very defined, the result of half a lifetime of focused training. We talk while I’m training him, and in between the planks, single leg squats and rows he tells me about his life, about his adventures alongside his son Rick, and the many miles he has logged both as an athlete and as a speaker telling his story and inspiring others.
I actually met Dick for the first team when I was about 20 years old and still in college, a fledgling reporter for a local paper, doing a feature story on Dick and Rick. Life has come full circle and I now have the pleasure of training Dick, who is still doing what he loves.
A month ago, while training for the Falmouth Road Race, a race he has never missed for the last 37 years, and one that he has always done pushing his son Rick in a specially-made running chair, he told me he really wanted to “kick ass” this year. I loved hearing that, and I love that Dick hasn’t lost his competitive spirit at an age when many people stop moving. Dick just celebrated his 76th birthday in June.
Rick and Dick’s slogan is “Yes you can,” and they are definitely living that motto. Dick works out for hours a day, lifting weights at the gym, doing core work with yours truly, running, biking and swimming. He also travels around the world telling his and Rick’s story to corporations, the armed services, schools and other organizations.
Dick no longer competes in marathons, but he still runs races several times a month with Rick. Rick still competes in marathons and longer races with dentist and fellow athlete Bryan Lyons, and Bryan and Rick are set to compete in Hawaii’s Ironman Triathlon in 2017.
It all started in 1977, when Rick, 15 years old, asked his dad to do a 5-mile race with him. At the time, Dick was 40 years old and didn’t exercise much. Despite that, they did that race, Dick pushing Rick in a wheelchair. Afterward, Rick told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped,” and also told me that he feels “incredibly happy” when he’s doing a race.
Father and son went on to run another race together, and another, eventually becoming the first duo (the term for a person pushing another person in a chair while they run) to complete the Boston Marathon, in 1981. In their 37-year running career, Dick estimates they have run over 1100 races, 85 marathons (32 Boston Marathons) and 6 Ironman Triathlons (the only duo to ever complete the Ironman World Championship Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii). Rick told me his favorite race is the Boston Marathon.
During this time, Rick finished high school and went on to college at Boston University, graduating in 1993.
They came in second to last in that first race, but they had caught the running bug, and their times improved quickly, oftentimes finishing first in Dick’s age group and well ahead of many runners who weren’t pushing anyone.
In 1989, The Hoyt Foundation, Inc. was born, a non-profit organization formed to raise money and awareness for the disabled in Massachusetts. The first Team Hoyt has given birth to several others across the continent: New England, Canada, Virginia Beach, Arizona, San Diego, Texas, and Idaho.
There is also a separate Hoyt Foundation Boston Marathon team that raises money each year through the John Hancock charity racing bib program.
This father and son’s love for each other, their “Yes you can” attitudes, and relentless perseverance have molded them into an inspiring duo that have taught so many to rise above their limitations and achieve great things. Rick’s advice to other people with disabilities: “You can accomplish anything you set out to do. You can race if someone is willing to push you.” We can all learn a lesson from these two who never give up, who want to “kick ass” in every race they do and who work tirelessly torward that goal.
You can find out more information about Rick and Dick Hoyt and Team Hoyt at www.teamhoyt.com.