Join Team Hoyt Coeur d'Alene
To get involved or donate, visit teamhoytcda.com.
COEUR d'ALENE — The word “can't” does not exist in the world of Dick and Rick Hoyt.
The father-son duo from Massachusetts are running world legends who have together completed more than 1,100 distance events including 32 Boston Marathons and multiple 140.6-mile Ironman triathlons.
“We've broken through a lot of barriers along the way,” Dick said Friday, to a group of about 100 gathered at the Hagadone Event Center in Coeur d'Alene to hear him speak.
With a lilting, light Boston accent, Dick, 77, talked about some of those obstacles the Hoyt family began encountering when Rick was born in 1962 without the ability to walk, talk or move much.
“They said, 'Forget Rick. Put him away. Put him in an institution. He's never going to be anything but a vegetable,” Dick said.
But Dick and his wife Judy would have none of that.
With sailboats gently gliding across Lake Coeur d'Alene as a backdrop outside the Event Center windows, Dick shared videos and a photo slideshow of Rick growing up like a normal child, despite his challenges.
There were birthday parties with candles. Rick was in the middle of the action during street hockey games with his brothers — one would push Rick in a wheelchair while they shared holding a hockey stick.
With persistence, Dick and Judy ensured Rick attended public school.
Then with the help of engineers from Tufts University, when Rick was 12, they were able to provide him with a special computer so he could communicate.
Despite his physical challenges, his athletic spirit was stronger. His first words were “Go Bruins!”
Rick eventually graduated from high school and from Boston University.
“He's 55 now and we still haven't figured out what kind of vegetable he is,” Dick said.
The pair completed their first athletic event together in 1977 when Rick told Dick he wanted to participate in a 5-mile charity marathon.
Dick said he was not much of a runner at the time, but using a special chair he pushed Rick across the finish line.
After the race, using his communication device, Rick said, “Dad, when I'm running, it feels like I'm not handicapped.”
“He called himself 'Freebird,'” Dick said. “I could hardly walk for two weeks.”
But they kept going and eventually tried to register for the Boston Marathon, but they were turned down because, Dick said, they were “different.” They did it anyway, unregistered.
They tried to register several more times until eventually they were told they could enter, but they had to complete a pre-qualifying event. The father and son traveled to Washington, D.C. and with 40,000 others, they finished the Marine Corps Marathon.
Several Boston Marathons later, they became the face of the event. A bronze statue of the pair is installed not far from the marathon course.
Known as “Team Hoyt,” Dick and Rick have competed in over 200 triathlons including the full Ironman, and the Ironman championship in Kona, which they completed. For the 2.4-mile swim, Dick wore a vest with a rope attached to it and swam while pulling a 9-foot Boston whaler boat with Rick seated in it on a beanbag chair and wearing a life vest. To transition from the swim to the 112-mile bicycle ride, he lifted his son from the boat and carried him in his arms away from the water to the bike course. They completed the bicycle leg with Rick in a seat inserted over the front wheel of a special bicycle. For the 26.2-mile run, Dick pushed Rick in a chair built over a small wheel in front and two larger wheels in back.
Due to some injuries, Dick had to stop racing a few years ago, but Rick has a new partner and Dick is still involved.
Dick and Rick's connection to Coeur d'Alene runs deeper than Ironman. Since last year, Coeur d'Alene has been among a growing number of communities in the U.S. and Canada that have joined Team Hoyt.
Team Hoyt Coeur d'Alene is a local nonprofit founded by local marathon runner and triathlete Laurie Aikins.
“It was my dream to bring that mission of Team Hoyt here so some of our folks could get a chance to cross the finish line,” Aikins said, when she introduced Dick to the crowd at the Event Center.
Team Hoyt Coeur d'Alene volunteers are working to raise money to provide running chairs for local people who, like Rick Hoyt, are physically challenged but not without athletic spirit. The volunteers also bring to athletic events what Dick Hoyt brought when he raced with Rick: the endurance and drive to share the exhilaration of completing a race course. They push those who need it across the finish lines.
A message from one of the videos Dick Hoyt shared Friday embodies the heart and soul of the Team Hoyt movement in Coeur d'Alene and beyond.
Rick couldn't do it without his dad, and Dick wouldn't do it without his son: “Together they run. Together has power. Don't run alone.”