Dick Hoyt, an inspirational marathoner who ran the Boston Marathon dozens of times while pushing his son in a custom wheelchair, died on Wednesday. He was 80 years old.
Hoyt’s son, Rick, was born in 1962. Due to a birth defect, Rick is paralyzed and unable to speak. ABC News reports that upon his son’s birth, doctors recommended putting him in a special care facility.
"We cried, but we talked and we said, "No, we're not going to put Rick away. We're gonna bring Rick home and bring him up like any other child,'" Dick Hoyt told ABC News in an interview several years ago.
According to ABC News, Rick asked his father if the two could run in a charity race in 1977. It marked the first time the two competed together.
"When we got home that night, Rick wrote on his computer, 'Dad, when I'm running, it feels like my disability disappears.' So that was a very powerful message to me," Hoyt told ABC News.
That inspired the Hoyts to compete in marathon running. CNN reports that three years later, the Hoyts made headlines when they crossed the finish line in the Boston Marathon — one of the most difficult races in the world.
The Hoyts soon became Boston Marathon staples, completing the race 32 times between 1980 and their final race in 2014. According to USA Today, the two participated in more than 1,000 races through the years, including Ironman Triathlons. The two even biked and ran across the U.S. in 1992, covering 3,735 miles in 45 days, according to the family’s website.
A statue of the Hoyts was erected near the Boston Marathon starting line in 2013.
“I know it’s a cliche, but I want people to know that I thought my father was a hero, not just because he pushed Rick in the marathon, but because he was a great father to all of us you could talk to about anything,” Dick Hoyt said, according to USA Today. “He inspired people to look at all their children as equals no matter their disability.”
"Dick personified what it meant to a be a Boston Marathoner, showing determination, passion, and love every Patriots' Day for more than three decades,” the Boston Athletic Association, the group that hosts the Boston Marathon, said in a statement.
"Dick epitomized what it means to be Boston Strong and inspired so many along the way," Boston Mayor Marty Walsh wrote on Twitter. "Boston will always miss you. Rest In Peace, my friend."