Rick Hoyt, a regular at the Boston Marathon who competed in more than 1,000 road races using a wheelchair pushed by his father, passed away 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 father and I are on the run, there is a special bond between us,” said Rick Hoyt The New York Times in 2009.
The pair competed in the Boston Marathon almost every year from 1980 to 2014. In 2013, Dick and Rick Hoyt were honored with a bronze statue near the start line of the race.
Together they completed more than 1,100 races, including marathons, triathlons and duathlons, a combination of cycling and running.
“I ran for Rick, who wanted to be an athlete but had no way to pursue his passion,” wrote Dick Hoyt in his 2010 book, “Devoted: The Story of a Father’s Love for His Son.” “I did not run for my own pleasure. I just lent my arms and legs to my son.”
Richard Eugene Hoyt Jr. was born on January 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 to benefit a lacrosse player who was paralyzed. Hoyt wanted to show the athlete that he, a quadriplegic teen, was still active despite his challenges.
Dick Hoyt, then 37, had not been an endurance athlete and had no ambition to run marathons. But he agreed to run the race with his son and they finished the five-mile course second to last.
The Hoyts worked to finish many races in impressive times. They completed the 1992 Marine Corps Marathon in 2 hours 40 minutes and 47 seconds and completed a full Ironman—swim 1.7 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26 miles—in 13:43:37.
They expected their 2013 Boston Marathon to be their last run from Hopkinton to Boston Common. But they were stopped around Mile 25 because of the finish line bombing. However, the Hoyts vowed to come back and ran their last Boston Marathon in 2014. They were slower than expected, Dick Hoyt said, mainly because they took the time to chatting and cuddling fans and children in wheelchairs.
“Dick and Rick Hoyt have inspired millions around the world,” said Dave McGillivray, a former Boston Marathon race director, adding, “We will always be grateful, Rick, for your courage, determination, tenacity and willingness to give of yourself so that others can also believe in themselves.”
Hoyt graduated from Boston University in 1993 with a degree in special education. He is survived by his brothers Russ and Rob. His mother, Judith Hoyt, a longtime advocate for children with disabilities, passed away 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 teamed up with McGillivray and Russell Hoyt on a race scheduled for this weekend, the Dick Hoyt Memorial ‘Yes You Can’ Run Together. The family decides whether to postpone the race or keep it as scheduled on Saturday in Hopkinton, Massachusetts.
“I have a list of things I would do for you if I wasn’t disabled,” Rick Hoyt wrote to his father in the final chapter of “Devoted.”
“Top of that list: I would do my best to ride the Ironman World Championship by pulling, pushing and kicking you. Then I would push you in the Boston Marathon,” he said.