Dick and Rick Hoyt will run their final Boston Marathon together in two weeks, ending one of the annual inspirational stories we still have in sports.
They never made it to the finish line last year; the bombs went off before they got there.
They’ll run this year to honor the victims of last year’s terrorist attack.
Rick can’t speak or control his limbs. One day, WBUR reports, he used his computerized voice to tell his dad about a charity road race for a student lacrosse player who’d been badly injured in an accident.
“When Rick came home he told me all about it,” Dick recalled, “and he said, ‘Dad, I have to do something for him. I want to let him know life goes on even though he’s paralyzed. I want to run in the race.’ ”
They’ve been running ever since to honor those who can’t.
They competed all over the world. And the more Dick and Rick raced publicly, the more they wanted the world to know that a physical disability doesn’t have to be insurmountable. It hadn’t been for Rick. That’s even though doctors had said he’d be a life-long vegetable best put away in an institution, and even though some people thought Rick — with his flailing arms and legs — shouldn’t even be out in public.
“When Rick was born, we’d take Rick in a restaurant, people would get up and leave,” Dick said. “Then they didn’t want him in school. Then they didn’t want us competing. And our message is: yes you can. There isn’t anything you can’t do as long as you make up your mind to do it. And there’s no such word as no.”
Team Hoyt didn’t begin as a cause. But the Hoyts became, in a way, accidental crusaders. They started hearing from alcoholics, drug addicts, injured military veterans — struggling people who told the Hoyts that they’d given them inspiration to try to turn their lives around.
Dick is 73 now. His son is 52.
They decided before last year’s race that it would be their last. But that was before two men tried to prevent them from doing what they do.
“Many people have asked me what I would do if I weren’t disabled. I have thought long and hard about what I would do if I weren’t in a wheelchair. Maybe I would play hockey, basketball or baseball. But then I thought about it some more and realized that what I would probably do first is tell my dad to sit down in the wheelchair, and now I would push him.”