Changing the World View on Inclusion

Over 1100 races including marathons, triathlons, and Ironmans later, Dick and Rick Hoyt continue to inspire us in living life to the fullest.

Crowds cheered and a slight breeze caressed the triathletes’ faces as they squinted their eyes to make out the finish line. I was one of them. The sun was hot that afternoon. The beads of sweat drips from our foreheads and I hurriedly flicked it aside. My triathlon suit was drenched, my heart was beating out of my chest, my left knee was aching, but I persisted. I thought back to my bag of motivational thoughts, clamoring for a second wind.

Before every triathlon I watch a video to get inspired. I always turned to one about a father who runs the races pushing his son in a wheelchair. I recall it when I need hope.  Team Hoyt is well known within the triathlon community and competed for years at the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. When the world seems to be against me, team Hoyt reminds me that anything is possible.

Witnessing Extraordinary Greatness

My shoes are soaked in sweat and I want to cry but there is no more liquid in me … I see the crowds cheer, but I have to keep focused … will I make it?

Then I saw something that changed my life forever. Another runner, a man, was pushing his son in a wheelchair … I recognized them! It’s Team Hoyt! The father, the son, and the holy perseverance. On every point on the course, their presence was marked by either press, or boisterous and joyful cheering.

Hoyt’s 57-year-old son, Rick, has cerebral palsy and is unable to walk or talk, but through his father’s love, his life is glorious. During triathlons, Hoyt pulls a boat tied to his waist, Rick on board dominating the swim. Then the bike course, on a special two-seater bicycle before Hoyt pushes his son in a custom-made wheelchair for the marathon on foot.

Ironman is a series of long-distance triathlons organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86†km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25†km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile (42.20†km) run, raced in that order and without stopping.

I ran harder and yelled “thank you.” They probably didn’t know that they were my muse. But after running this Ironman, I could only shout what was in my heart, far too tired for niceties and formality.

A Story of Love and Will

The doctors were honest and didn’t sugarcoat the diagnosis. “They said, ‘Forget Rick, put him away, put him in an institution, he’s going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life,’” recalls Hoyt.

Rick proved them wrong. Using a computer device specially created to let him communicate, Rick achieved earning his high school diploma. Never to be defeated, he continued to Boston University. At that time and afterwards, much was accomplished. All in all, Team Hoyt has competed in more than 1100 races, 32 of which were the Boston Marathon.

It all started during school when Rick confessed a desire to his father. A lacrosse player was in an accident and ended up paralyzed, and Rick wanted to participate in a 5-mile charity run in his name.

“‘Dad, I have to do something for him. I want to let him know that life goes on even though he’s paralyzed. I want to run in the race,’” said Hoyt.

For the first time, Hoyt made the decision to complete the race with his son, wheelchair and all. It was clear that while they were running, his son did not feel disabled. Any father would give anything to give this feeling to his son.

Rick told his father, “’Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not disabled”

Reaching Milestones

In 1989, the Hoyt Foundation was set up by the incredible duo. It strives to help disabled Americans experience inclusion in their daily lives, from sports in schools to joining the workforce.

Two decades later they completed their 1,000th race, the Boston Marathon we’re in together. They decimated the milestone and left nonbelievers wide-eyed. To this day, that marathon holds an undeniable portion of their hearts.  It still brings a smile to Dick’s face, recalling the bewilderment in the people’s faces at his request for such a niche wheelchair. People simply didn’t get it, not back then.

All over the world, Dick and Rick Hoyt are pictured competing together in the Boston Marathon and will dominate the race for the thirty-something’th time soon. Their story has been published in several books including a detailed account found in Devoted-The Story of a Father’s Love for His Son, the book written by Hoyt about his great odyssey with his son.

“I used to get letters and phone calls saying, ‘What are you doing dragging your son to all these races? Are you just looking for glory for yourself?’”  Hoyt recounts. ”What they didn’t realize was that he was dragging me to all these races!”

When asked what he would give to his father, the response is heart wrenching: “The thing I’d most like is for my dad to sit in the chair and I would push him for once.”

Today, they find themselves speaking across the country. Giving hope to the disabled and motivation to the weary. Never encountering defeat, the race continues. They aim to inspire all who would listen, everyone can be whatever they want to be. To me they are motivation. To the world, they continue to be pure inspiration.

Be inspired by the touching story of Team Hoyt by visiting their website at www.teamhoyt.com.