In honor of the Kona Ironman World Championship tomorrow, I would like to share the amazing story of Dick and Rick Hoyt, a father and son duo whose story epitomizes the words love and devotion.
After being deprived of oxygen at the time of his birth in 1962, Rick Hoyt was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. As a result, his brain cannot send the correct messages to his muscles. Because of the severity of Rick’s condition, his parents were encouraged to institutionalize him because there was no chance of a recovery or of Rick living a “normal” life.
His parents, Dick and Judy Hoyt, wouldn’t hear of it. They were determined to give Rick every opportunity to live as normal a life as possible. Rick’s mother spent hours every day teaching him the alphabet and at the age of 11, Rick was fitted with a computer that enabled him to communicate. At 13 he attended public school and went on to graduate from Boston University in 1993.
Team Hoyt began in 1977 after Rick read an article about racing and became inspired. His father, Dick Hoyt, then 37, was not a runner.
But for his son, he became one.
After their first race, Rick told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.” After their first five-mile run, Dick began running every day. When Rick was at school, Dick ran with a bag of cement in the wheelchair.
Team Hoyt began racing nearly every weekend, and to date the father-son duo have competed more than 1,000 endurance events, including 70 marathons and almost 300 triathlons. They have run the Boston Marathon 30 times, and in 1992 they biked and ran across the US, completing 3,735 miles in 45 days.
And they have completed six Ironman Triathlons.
Ironman will push the limits of even the fittest athlete in the best imaginable conditions. Imagine swimming 2.4 miles in the Pacific Ocean. Imagine biking 112 miles through barren lava fields with 45mph crosswinds and temperatures up to 120 degrees, and running 26.2 miles in temperatures that can average 95 degrees in the shade.
Now imagine doing that while towing another human being.
For the swim portion of a triathlon, Dick attaches a rope to his body and pulls Rick in a boat. For the cycle portion, Rick rides on the front of a specially-designed tandem bike. For the run, Dick pushes Rick in his wheelchair.
And Ironman courses, by design, are never flat.
Here is their story:
Dick Hoyt is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Air National Guard. Now 73, he and Rick spend less time racing and more time doing speaking engagements. For more information, visit Team Hoyt’s website at www.teamhoyt.com.
What about you? Who or what inspires you?