Advertisement

Russell Hoyt On His Father And Brother's Boston Marathon Legacy04:30
Download

Play
Dick and Rick Hoyt cross the finish line surrounded by supporters in the 118th Boston Marathon in Boston. (Charles Krupa/AP)
Dick and Rick Hoyt cross the finish line surrounded by supporters in the 118th Boston Marathon in Boston. (Charles Krupa/AP)

Dick Hoyt ran the Boston Marathon for more than 30 years while pushing his son, Rick, who has cerebral palsy and is quadriplegic using a custom racing chair.

Together, they were known as Team Hoyt.

They made their last run together in 2014 when Dick retired from the race. And before that final marathon, Dick Hoyt told WBUR how much it meant to him that he and Rick inspired others.

"We got all these other kids that are physically challenged out in the public now and to able to live, learn, work and play just like everybody else," he said. "We have been able to help change all of that."

Dick Hoyt went on to be grand marshal of the race the following year. He died Wednesday at the age of 80.

One of his sons, Russell Hoyt, joined WBUR's All Things Considered to discuss his father's legacy.

"He would always say, 'Rick, you're the heart. I'm the body.' " Russell Hoyt said.  "I think the fact that people started to see Rick in a different way, they saw Rick as more of a person than just a person in a wheelchair. I think that's what truly motivated him to to put the effort in that he did."

Marathoner Dick Hoyt with his sons, left to right, Robert, Rick, Russell and grandson Jayme (Roberts son) in 1996. (Frank O'Brien/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Marathoner Dick Hoyt with his sons, left to right, Robert, Rick, Russell and grandson Jayme (Roberts son) in 1996. (Frank O'Brien/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Here are more excerpts from the conversation:

On the impact his father had on his life

"I don't know if everybody gets to say that their father truly is their hero, but I can and not just because of the racing. I mean, he was just the type of man that you would want to be, your father, someone that you could talk to, someone who would listen and say the right thing when when you needed to hear something. In addition to that is the racing legacy that everybody knows about. And it's just inspiring to have someone like that in your family. And I'm lucky enough to actually have two of them, my father and my brother."

On how Dick and Rick started their marathon careers

"When Rick was in high school and my dad was 40, my dad was only running about a mile or two a week to stay in shape. And Rick came home with a flier for a fundraising race. A student at the high school had dove into a swimming pool, broken his neck, and they were trying to help raise money for the family. And Rick asked my dad to push him in the race. And they ran the race.

"Everybody expected him to go, you know, at the end of the street, turn around and come back. But they ran the entire five miles and their claim to fame, they came in second to last, but not last ...

"And when Rick crossed the finish line, there's a picture of him with a smile on. My dad says it is the biggest smile he's ever seen in his life. And when Rick went home that night, he got on his computer and he spelled out, 'Dad, when we're running, I don't even feel like I'm handicapped anymore.' And that got them started on this career.

"A few years later, I believe it was 1980. They ran their first Boston Marathon and they wouldn't give numbers to a duo at the time, so they would only receive one number. And my father had to qualify in Rick's age category, and he was in his 20s at the time. So they actually run out and they ran the Marine Corps marathon in a time of 2:41, which got them qualified for Boston. And then they came back and ran as official entrants in the Boston Marathon. And the crowds were just so amazed to see them running that every year we would hear from people who came out to watch the Boston Marathon just to see them go by."

Advertisement

A plaque Rick and Dick Hoyt received for finishing the Tokunoshima Triathlon in Japan in 1994. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A plaque Rick and Dick Hoyt received for finishing the Tokunoshima Triathlon in Japan in 1994. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

How Russell Hoyt hopes his father will be remembered

"I think as somebody who truly was, you know, an amazing father, I think that was more important to him than anything than to be seen as someone who was able to help change the hearts and minds of people. People have told them that in countries where, you know, they've looked at people with disabilities, you know, differently than even here in America.

"They inspired people to allow people with disabilities to start to have experiences in their lives that they never would have had had they not met them. So I think that's a true legacy right there."

Rick and Dick Hoyt, Boston Marathon stalwarts since 1981, by the Hamilton Reservoir behind their home in Holland, Mass. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Rick and Dick Hoyt, Boston Marathon stalwarts since 1981, by the Hamilton Reservoir behind their home in Holland, Mass. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

This segment aired on March 17, 2021.

Related:

Jack Lepiarz Twitter Reporter and Anchor
Jack Lepiarz is a reporter and anchor at WBUR.

More…

Hannah Chanatry Twitter Producer, All Things Considered
Hannah Chanatry is a producer for WBUR's All Things Considered.

More…

Advertisement

Advertisement