Rick Hoyt, a regular at the Boston Marathon who competed in more than a thousand road races using a wheelchair pushed by his father, died on Monday at an assisted living facility in Leicester, Mass. He was 61.
His family said in an announcement that the cause was “complications with his respiratory system.” Hoyt’s father, Dick Hoyt, died in March 2021 at 80.
“When my dad and I are out there on a run, a special bond forms between us,” Rick Hoyt told The New York Times in 2009.
The pair competed in the Boston Marathon nearly every year from 1980 through 2014. In 2013, Dick and Rick Hoyt were honored with a bronze statue near the race’s starting line.
They completed more than 1,100 races together, including marathons, triathlons and duathlons, a combination of biking and running.
“I was running for Rick, who longed to be an athlete but had no way to pursue his passion,” Dick Hoyt wrote in his 2010 book, “Devoted: The Story of a Father’s Love for His Son,” written with Don Yaeger and published in 2010. “I wasn’t running for my own pleasure. I was simply loaning my arms and legs to my son.”
Richard Eugene Hoyt Jr. was born in Winchester, Mass., near Boston, to Dick and Judith Hoyt on Jan. 10, 1962. He had cerebral palsy and was unable 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 benefiting a lacrosse player who was paralyzed. He wanted to show the athlete that he, a quadriplegic teenager, was still active despite the challenges he faced.
Dick Hoyt, 37 at the time, had not been an endurance athlete and had not aspired to marathon running. But he agreed to run the race with his son, and they finished the five-mile course second to last.
The Hoyts worked up to finishing many races in impressive times. They completed the 1992 Marine Corps Marathon in 2 hours 40 minutes 47 seconds, and in 2000 they finished a full Ironman — 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of bicycling and 26.2 miles of running — in 13:43:37.
They expected their 2013 Boston Marathon to be their final run from Hopkinton to Boston Common. But they were stopped at around Mile 25 because of the bombing at the finish line.
The Hoyts vowed to come back, however, and raced their final Boston Marathon in 2014. They were slower than expected, Dick Hoyt said, mostly because they took the time to chat with and hug fans and children in wheelchairs.
“Dick and Rick Hoyt have inspired millions around the world,” Dave McGillivray, a former race director of the Boston Marathon, said, adding: “We will always be grateful, Rick, for your courage, determination, tenacity and willingness to give of yourself so that others, too, could 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, a longtime advocate for children with disabilities, died in 2010. His father served in the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard for 37 years and later became an inspirational speaker, sharing the story of his races with his son.
Rick Hoyt was working with McGillivray and Russell Hoyt on a race scheduled for this Saturday in Hopkinton, Mass., the Dick Hoyt Memorial “Yes You Can” Run Together. The family has decided to hold the race as scheduled.
“I have a list of things I would do for you if I was not disabled,” Rick Hoyt wrote to his father in the final chapter of “Devoted.”
“Tops on that list: I would do my best to race the World Championship Ironman pulling, pushing and pedaling you. Then I would push you in the Boston Marathon.”