For years I had heard of “Team Hoyt,” but it wasn’t until I saw Dick Hoyt in person and did further research that I understood what the words love, sacrifice and courage mean.
“Team Hoyt” is Dick Hoyt, 73, and his son, Rick, who is 51 and lives with cerebral palsy.
They compete in marathons, with Dick pushing Rick in a special chair. They also have competed in Ironman triathlons with a customized raft and bicycle, all powered by the rock-solid Mr. Hoyt. Together, they have done more than 1,000 races.
The story of how they got started is well-chronicled. In 1977, Dick pushed his son in a benefit 5-mile race, after which Rick said, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.”
They’ve kept going ever since, including a cross-country bike-run trip in 1992 covering more than 3,700 miles in 45 days.
Three years ago, when I went to Manchester, N.H. for a marathon, Team Hoyt had a booth at the “runners’ expo” the day before the race. Dick was there with an assistant, but apparently Rick wasn’t feeling well and not in attendance.
I am not usually timid, but I was so in awe of Dick Hoyt and all he has done for his son, I couldn’t muster the courage to talk to him. I was afraid my reaction would be the same as it is every time I watch one of the many videos about Team Hoyt.
The Manchester Marathon wasn’t the first time I was at the same race as the Hoyts. The official Team Hoyt website has a photo of the pair (above) at the 1981 Boston Marathon, although I don’t recall if I saw them or not.
The Boston Athletic Association, which oversees the Boston Marathon, in April unveiled a Team Hoyt statue in Hopkinton, Mass., the picture-postcard town where the race starts. Dick and Rick ran this year’s marathon, their 31st consecutive Boston Marathon together. They were among the many who were unable to complete it because of the bombings at the finish line.
While his running schedule has slowed somewhat, Dick still travels the country giving inspirational speeches. The Team Hoyt motto, by the way, is “Yes You Can.”
The reach of Team Hoyt is far and wide. Marathoners all over the country now push people with disabilities the 26.2-mile distance, and no doubt those folks feel the same way Rick Hoyt does. At the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. last year, I saw a Team Hoyt duo, and the encouragement they received from spectators and other runners was beautiful.
In Syracuse, NY, the Strong Hearts vegan cafe has named one of its signature shakes “Team Hoyt.” For the record, it has orange creamsicle ice cream with vanilla soy milk.
Strong Hearts names its vegan shakes in honor of people from all over the world who have broken down all kinds of barriers (check out the photo below). I’d say Team Hoyt has earned its spot on that board.