Dick Hoyt’s legacy lives on in Hopkinton

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Team Hoyt statue
Flowers sit on the Team Hoyt statue in front of Center School following Dick Hoyt’s death in March. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

Dick Hoyt voiced optimism prior to the last Boston Marathon in 2019 that he might return to pushing his quadriplegic son, Rick, in the race that helped build the legacy of Team Hoyt.

Tragically, Dick Hoyt did not live to see another Boston.

The 80-year-old passed away in March of this year at his home in the Western Massachusetts town of Holland after experiencing some health issues.

“I want to start up again, I am feeling better now, starting to run, I would like to be ready to start running marathons again,” Hoyt told the Independent in 2019. “The goal is to be out there next year.”

The duo last competed in Boston in 2014, struggling to finish in 7 1/2 hours.

That was a far cry from Team Hoyt’s best-ever Boston Marathon finish of 2:48:51, set in 1986 when Dick was 45. They finished an even faster marathon in 1992, running the Marine Corps Marathon in 2:40:47.

Rick had continued to participate in the marathon after Dick’s retirement, being pushed by Team Hoyt supporter Brian Lyons since 2015 (Rick had to skip the 2019 race because he was sick). However, in another tragedy for Team Hoyt, Lyons died last year at the age of 50.

Dick Hoyt pushed his son through 32 Boston Marathons, as well as numerous other endurance events, including triathlons and a cross-country bicycle ride/run. He also took Rick cross-country skiing and mountain climbing.

It all started in 1972, when Rick, a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, had been outfitted with a computer that allowed him to type out words by touching a switch with his head. Rick asked his father to push him in a local 5-mile road race that was organized to help a high school classmate who had been paralyzed.

Dick, a military man who was not a runner, agreed.

After the race, Rick wrote, “Dad, when we were running, it felt like I wasn’t disabled anymore.”

That was all the inspiration Dick Hoyt needed.

A few years later, Dick had gotten into good enough shape to push Rick in the Boston Marathon — unofficially. A few years after that they earned a number by running a qualifying time in another race.

Soon they took on a new challenge: triathlons. Dick, who had never learned how to swim as a youngster, trained to do it while pulling a dinghy that held Rick. Having not ridden a bicycle since he was a kid, Dick trained to do it with his 110-pound son in tow.

They ended up participating in well over 200 triathlons — including the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii four times — and earning a spot in the Ironman and USA Triathlon halls of fame.

In 1989, the Hoyt Foundation was founded to help youngsters with disabilities better participate in sports and life in general. Dick traveled around the world giving inspirational speeches and drumming up support for the cause.

Dick and Rick also were regular visitors to Hopkinton. They once hosted their road race — the Team Hoyt 5K — in town, they made appearances in the schools to speak to students, and in 2013 they became permanent “residents” when a statue of them was unveiled in front of Center School.

“There is no doubt about it, Hopkinton has adopted Team Hoyt,” Dick Hoyt said in 2019. “The people of Hopkinton have been unbelievable to us. It’s just been awesome.”

In April, it was announced that a new road being constructed off Main Street for a residential development called Hopkinton Village Center would be named Hoyt Way.

Even after his passing, Dick Hoyt will continue to inspire future generations of runners and Hopkintonians.

“It was hard not to be inspired by the love he had for his son, his total dedication, and his strength,” state Sen. Karen Spilka tweeted in March. “A local legend if there ever was one.”

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1 COMMENT

  1. It is a true loss for all of sport and not only triathlon with this passing of wonderful, caring and devoted father. I first met the Hoyt’s while racing alongside them in Kona at the Hawaii Ironman World Championship back in the early 90’s. I then had the esteemed pleasure to meet and speak with them at the pre-race activities for the Washington DC, Marine I/We all will Never forget the emotional lift we all got the first time Dick and Rickie entered the swim venue at the famed “DigMe” Beach in Kona. WE all knew right then that Yes these are true athletes in every sense of the word, ready to tackle, like the other 1500+ triathletes, the most challenging endurance event in the world.
    RIP Colonel Hoyt, Your legacy is cast in bronze forever.

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