Dick and Rick Hoyt have been in perpetual motion on Boston Marathon Monday nearly every year since 1981.
They now are forever stuck in time thanks to a bronze statue featuring the pair that was officially unveiled recently in Hopkinton, Mass., less than 100 yards from the marathon’s starting line.
The image of Dick, now 72, pushing his quadriplegic son in a race-modified wheelchair has become a Boston Marathon staple, along with Heartbreak Hill, cheering crowds on Commonwealth Avenue and the ceremonial wreath presentation at the end of the race.
On Monday, the Hoyts will aim to complete the 26.2-mile course from Hopkinton to Boston together for the 31st time.
Dick Hoyt, who spoke to ESPN Playbook prior to the ceremony, said the statue of him and Rick, now 51, is something he never imagined the first time he ran a race pushing his son 34 years ago.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling. To have a statue, like Ted Williams, Larry Bird and Bobby Orr -- who would have ever thought this could happen,” Dick Hoyt said. “To us, this is like winning the Super Bowl, the World Series or the Stanley Cup. When Rick was born, they said he’d be nothing but a vegetable. Now he’s a bronze statue. It can’t get any better than that.”
Joining Orr on the list of Boston’s statuesque sports legends is fitting for the Hoyts, since Rick’s first words, communicated via specially designed device more than 40 years ago, were “go Bruins.” Boston Marathon legend Johnny Kelley, who ran the race 61 times and won it twice, is cast in bronze in Newton, Mass. The bronzed shoes of four-time winner Bill Rodgers can been seen on a plaque at Faneuil Hall in Boston, right next to Red Auerbach’s statue.
Rick Hoyt was born with cerebral palsy and now speaks with the aid of a computer. He graduated from Boston University in 1993 and earned a degree in special education. He lives in an apartment with a full-time caregiver. The Hoyts biked and ran across the United States in 45 days in 1992 and completed in a triathlon the day after they finished the cross-country trip.
Despite earning plenty of coverage on their own, the Hoyts remain avid Boston sports fans. Rick Hoyt did not approve of the Patriots losing Wes Welker to the Denver Broncos. “He was not happy. He thinks that Denver is going to win the Super Bowl,” Dick Hoyt said.
Zdeno Chara of the Bruins once asked Dick Hoyt, who lives in Holland, Mass., to become his personal trainer. Hoyt said Chara also told him that the Bruins played a video of their story prior to Boston’s 4-0 Game 7 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup final. “When they got home, he called us and said ‘you guys are part of the reason why we won the Stanley Cup,’” Hoyt said. “When they won the Cup, my son almost fell out of his chair.”
The Hoyts’ tale is truly an “against all odds” story that has been widely documented. Dick’s Sporting Goods posted this mini-documentary about the Hoyts on YouTube last month.
Team Hoyt has competed in more than 1,000 distance races and triathlons, including six Ironmans. Its best marathon time was 2 hours, 48 minutes in the Marine Corps race in Washington, D.C. Dick Hoyt initially trained by putting sandbags in his son’s wheelchair.
Their story has inspired thousands of others to push their disabled children in endurance races. It has also led to the creation of more than 20 volunteer groups who do the same for disabled children and adults who want to be part of the competition.
Dick Hoyt said his son’s presence, and the encouragement he and Rick provide to others, are the main factors why they still compete. “Rick is the one that keeps me going. He motivates me and inspires me,” Dick Hoyt said. “I'm just loaning him my arms and legs so that he can compete. And now that other people are doing this, we get emails from people all over the world that we are inspiring them. Because of them, Rick doesn’t want to stop.”
After conquering the challenge of marathoning, Dick and Rick became triathletes. Dick swims with his son in tow on an inflatable boat but finds cycling the most challenging. “We carry 400 pounds when we’re biking. Rick is sitting on the handlebars on top of the front tire. It’s like having a piece of plywood in front of you. It’s tough in the hills. When we’re going downhill, I still have to pedal, while the others get to be tucked in.”
The Hoyts are also using social media as another motivational tool. In partnership with Timex, Dick Hoyt is using his story to help others share their passion and stories about running. Runners can share their stories on the Timex “I AM A RUNNER” Facebook page or by using the #IMARUNNER hashtag onTwitter or Instagram, with the chance to win an Ironman watch in the process.
Among the reasons offered for running by users of the #IMARUNNER hashtag:
— Debbie Woodruff (@LivefromLQ) April 6, 2013
#imarunner because losing the battle of diabetes is NOT AN OPTION!
— katrinaruns (@katrinaruns) April 7, 2013
The Hoyts plan to finish Monday’s race. Dick Hoyt admits he’s slowing down and said he would curtail all his other races before giving up on running in Boston. Meanwhile, Team Hoyt is still planning to participate in 20 triathlons this summer. “The end is coming, I just don’t know when. We’ll see how we do on Monday.”