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Rick Hoyt, a Boston Marathon regular with his father, dies at 61: NPR

Rick Hoyt, the man known for running the Boston Marathon from his wheelchair while his father pushed, has died of respiratory complications.


Rick Hoyt was known for running the Boston Marathon from his wheelchair while his dad pushed. He died of respiratory complications. NPR’s Sacha Pfeiffer sat down with the father-son duo nearly a decade ago.

SACHA PFEIFFER, BYLINE: I met the Hoyts at Dick’s in the small town of Holland, in central Massachusetts. The house is a sanctuary for the Hoyt team – walls lined with medals and plaques they’ve won in their nearly 1,100 races and photos of them with luminaries they’ve met over the years .

DICK HOYT: See? this is Ronald Reagan, and this is Johnny Kelly…

PFEIFFER: Oh, yes.

DR HOYT: …The great Johnny Kelly who ran the Boston Marathon.

PFEIFFER: They never imagined becoming such VIPs when they first raced together, when Rick was 15. Rick has cerebral palsy. His mind is intact, but he cannot speak or control his limbs. One day, he used his computerized voice to tell his father about a charity road race. It was for a student lacrosse player who had been seriously injured in an accident.

DR HOYT: When Rick came home, he told me everything. And he said, Dad, I have to do something for him. I want to let him know that life goes on even though he’s paralyzed. I want to run in the race.

PFEIFFER: At the time, Dick Hoyt was far from being in top physical condition. However, he didn’t want to say no to his son.

D HOYT: We did a whole five miles, coming in second to last but not last.


DR HOYT: And when we got home that night, Rick wrote on his computer: Dad, when I run I feel like my disability is disappearing.

PFEIFFER: For Rick, being on a race course made him feel like he was as fit as all the other competitors.

D HOYT: He was called Free Bird because now he was free and able to compete and race with everyone.

PFEIFFER: Then they started doing longer races and eventually set their sights on the Boston Marathon.

D HOYT: They made us qualify in Rick’s age group, and it was a bit difficult because Rick was in his twenties. I was in my 40s and they were using Rick’s age to qualify us.

PFEIFFER: The Boston Marathon has become an annual event for them.

RICK HOYT: The Boston Marathon is the one event I look forward to all year long.

PFEIFFER: It’s Rick’s computerized voice, the one that lets him express all the ideas and feelings that are swirling around in his head that his mouth can’t produce.

R HOYT: People who walk are the best. When I hear them shouting our names, it gives me a very strong feeling inside. Many people have asked me what I would do if I weren’t disabled. I 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 a bit more and realized that what I would probably do first would be tell my dad to get in the wheelchair, and now I would push him.

SHAPIRO: This was NPR’s 2014 Sacha Pfeiffer interview with Boston Marathon icon Rick Hoyt, who died yesterday at age 61. Rick’s father, Dick Hoyt, died in 2021. Together they have completed over a thousand races, including 32 Boston Marathons.

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