Boston Marathon legend Dick Hoyt, who pushed son in wheelchair for 32 races, dies

Boston Marathon legend Dick Hoyt, who became an inspiration for many people around the world by pushing his disabled son, Rick, in a wheelchair in numerous Boston Marathons and hundreds of other races, has passed away aged 80.

Dick died in his sleep at his Massachusetts home last Wednesday, Russ Hoyt, another of his sons, shared with The Associated Press.

“He had an ongoing heart condition that he had been struggling with for years and it just got the better of him,” the son said.

Russ, and his other brother, Rob, also had to inform Rick – who is quadriplegic and has cerebral palsy – of the devastating news.

“He’s sad, as we all are, but he’s OK,” Russ said. “You could see it in him, it was like someone hit him.”

The first time Dick pushed his boy in the Boston Marathon was back in 1980 and they completed 32 Boston Marathons with Rick’s special wheelchair until the devoted father’s health-related retirement in 2014. His initial plan was to retire right after the 2013 race, but they were not able to finish the race due to the bombing that took place, so they returned the year after.

The Boston Athletic Association, which organizes the marathon, called Hoyt a legend.

“The B.A.A. is tremendously saddened to learn of the passing of Boston Marathon icon Dick Hoyt,” theey said in a statement. “Dick personified what it meant to a be a Boston Marathoner, showing determination, passion, and love every Patriots Day for more than three decades. He was not only a fan favorite who inspired thousands, but also a loyal friend and father who took pride in spending quality time with his son Rick while running from Hopkinton to Boston.”

Dick was appointed Grand Marshal of the race in 2015 in recognition of his legacy.

And although he was no longer able to run, Rick went on to race with the help of Bryan Lyons, a dentist, who took over for the devoted father until his own unexpected death at age 50 last year.

Image: AP

The father and son had their first race back in 1977 after Rick told his father he wanted to be part of a benefit run for a paralyzed lacrosse player. They finished next to last, but that was just the beginning of their journey.

“Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not disabled,” Rick told his dad after that first race, according to the website of Team Hoyt, the charity the family set up to help athletes with disabilities.

The pair ran over 100 races of all kinds and even completed a run and bike across the United States, covering 3,735 miles (6,010 kilometers) in 45 days, the website states.

A statue of them was erected in 2013 in front of a Hopkinton school, near the start line of the Boston Marathon.

“I know it’s a cliche, but I want people to know that I thought my father was a hero, not just because he pushed Rick in the marathon, but because he was a great father to all of us you could talk to about anything,” he said. “He inspired people to look at all their children as equals no matter their disability.”

Rest In Peace, Dick. You won’t be forgotten.

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