You are participating in an Ironman triathlon. You’ve just run a 26.2 mile marathon, and you’re now swimming across a 2.4 mile-wide ocean channel between two Hawaiian Islands. After that you’ll bike for 112 miles. By the time you’re done, you’ll have been doing heavy physical exercise for fifteen hours straight without rest. Yet you are twenty-five years old, strong, fit, a jock. You’re swimming with strong, solid strokes. You’re getting tired but you feel confident. You can do this. Then all of a sudden a 50-year-old man swims by you towing a full-grown man behind him in a boat!
Finish the race and go shake that pairs’ hands. They are heroes. Here is their story.
Rick Hoyt was left brain damaged and paralyzed when strangled by the umbilical cord during birth.
That was 1963, and doctors gave him up as a hopeless case: a vegetable for life.
His parents Dick and Judy wouldn’t take that for an answer. They were convinced that their son could lead as beautiful a life as anybody else. After numerous tests, the engineering department at a nearby university finally developed an apparatus by which Rick could communicate by touching a switch with the side of his head.
And then it happened. When a friend was paralyzed by an accident and the local school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked, “Dad, I want to do that.” And so they did, both of them together, father pushing son.
The next two weeks of soreness led Dick to joke that now he was the paralyzed one. But he couldn’t forget the look of ecstasy on Rick’s face as he was pushed along. Dick promised himself that he would give his son that opportunity as often as he could.
It took a while, but in 1979 Dick was in such good shape that the two of them were ready for the Boston Marathon. They have since participated in twenty-four Boston Marathons, including this year’s.
Their best record was two hours and forty minutes in 1992, only thirty-five minutes off the world record, (not exactly held by a wheel-chair pusher!)
They’ve also done triathlons, 212 of them, including four fifteen-hour long killer Ironman’s in Hawaii, like the one mentioned above.
Dick has done all he can to give his son happiness in life, he’s also gotten a lot out of it all as well, including a new lease on life.
That’s because in 2004 Dick had a mild heart attack during a race. One of his arteries was ninety-five-percent clogged. The doctor told sixty-one-year-old Dick: “If you hadn’t been in such good shape, you’d have been dead fifteen years ago.”
But watching those two go at it as they continue to participate in races around the country and give inspirational talks and seminars, few would doubt that the only thing motivating Dick is the love he has for his son.
This is why they both deserve a standing ovation when Rick types out the following words of gratitude:
“There’s no question about it. My dad is the Father of the Century.” - For more information see the Hoyt’s website, www.teamhoyt.com.