Rick Hoyt, who raced with his father, dies at 61

Rick Hoyt, who raced with his father, dies at 61

Rick Hoyt, a Boston Marathon regular who has competed in more than a thousand road races in a wheelchair pushed by his father, died Monday. He was 61 years old.

His family said the cause was respiratory system complications. Hoyt’s father, Dick Hoyt, died in March 2021 at the age of 80. Rick lived in an assisted living facility in Leicester, Mass.

“When my dad and I are running, a special bond is formed between us,” Rick Hoyt told The New York Times in 2009.

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

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

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

Richard Eugene Hoyt Jr. was born on January 10, 1962, with cerebral palsy and unable to move his limbs or speak. In 1972 he began using a specialized computer to help him communicate. His first words, as a hockey fan, were “Go Bruins.”

Rick Hoyt’s first road racing experience dates back to 1977, when he applied to participate in a charity race to benefit a paralyzed lacrosse player. Hoyt wanted to show the athlete that he, a teenage quadriplegic, was still active despite his challenges.

Dick Hoyt, 37 at the time, was not an endurance athlete and had no marathon aspirations. But he agreed to participate in the race with his son, and they completed the five-mile course second to last.

The Hoyts strived to finish many races in impressive times. They completed the 1992 Marine Corps Marathon in 2 hours 40 minutes 47 seconds and completed a full Ironman – 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles cycling and 26.2 miles running – in 13:43:37 .

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

“Dick and Rick Hoyt have inspired millions around the world,” said Dave McGillivray, former Boston Marathon race director, adding, “We will always be grateful, Rick, for your courage, determination, tenacity and your willingness to give of yourself so that others can also 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 her shopping with her son.

Rick Hoyt was working with McGillivray and Russell Hoyt on a run planned for this weekend, the Dick Hoyt Memorial ‘Yes You Can’ Run Together. The family decided to hold the race as planned on Saturday in Hopkinton, Mass.

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

“Top of the list: I’ll do my best to compete in the Ironman World Championship by pulling you, pushing you, and pedaling you.

“Then,” he added, “I’d push you to the Boston Marathon.”

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