Rick Hoyt, the man who was pushed in a wheelchair by his father in 32 Boston Marathon races, died Monday morning.
Hoyt, 61, died due to complications with his respiratory system, according to a family statement posted on The Hoyt Foundation’s Facebook.
“It is with profound sadness that the Hoyt Family announce the passing of our beloved brother and uncle, Rick Hoyt this morning,” the Hoyt family said in a statement Monday. “As so many knew, Rick along with our father, Dick, were icons in the road race and triathlon worlds for over 40 years and inspired millions of people with disabilities to believe in themselves, set goals and accomplish extraordinary things.”
Rick, who had cerebral palsy that left him a quadriplegic, and his father, Dick, who passed away in March 2021, ran their first Boston Marathon in 1980 with a custom racing chair for Rick, according to the Boston Athletic Association and became fixtures in the race until their last as a team in 2014.
The father and son began running in races in 1977 when Rick told his dad he wanted to participate in a 5-mile race to benefit a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident, according to the Hoyt Foundation’s website.
Though he could not talk, Hoyt learned when he was 12 years old how to use his head and buttons mounted on his chair to type out sentences.
“I wanted to show this person that life goes on and he could still lead a productive life,” Hoyt told HBO’s “Real Sports” correspondent Mary Carillo in 2005. He said he told his father they had to run in the race.
They completed the 5-mile event with his father pushing his chair, finishing next to last.
Hoyt told his father that when they were running it felt like his disability disappeared, Dick Hoyt told “Real Sports.”
Rick Hoyt was a 36-time Boston Marathon finisher, according to the marathon race organizers.
“Rick Hoyt will always be remembered as a Boston Marathon icon and for personifying the ‘Yes You Can’ mentality that defined Team Hoyt,” the Boston Athletic Association said in a statement. “We are fortunate to have been able to call Rick a friend, mentor, pioneer, and Boston Marathon finisher.”
The father-son duo completed more than 1,000 marathons, duathlons and triathlons, according to the Team Hoyt website.
There is a statue honoring the pair in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, near where the marathon starts each April.
A “Yes You Can” race is planned for this Saturday in Hopkinton in honor of Dick, but the family says they will make a decision at a later date whether it will be postponed.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Hopkinton.