Boston Marathon icon Dick Hoyt, who pushed his son in wheelchair, dies at 80

Dick Hoyt, the man who famously pushed his son Rick in a custom racing wheelchair through 32 Boston Marathons and more than 1,000 total races, died Wednesday morning. He was 80.

Hoyt died peacefully in his sleep in Massachusetts, one of his three sons, Russ Hoyt, told the Associated Press. He had an ongoing heart condition that "just got the better of him," Russ said. He and brother, Rob, told the news to Rick.

Dick Hoyt becomes Boston Marathon icon

Hoyt first pushed Rick, who is quadriplegic and has cerebral palsy, in a 1977 race and entered their first Boston Marathon in 1980 using a special racing wheelchair. They competed in a total of 32 Boston Marathon races as well as other competitions. Hoyt became famous for his commitment to including his son in the races however he could.

"The pair’s bond and presence throughout the course became synonymous with the Boston Marathon," the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), which runs the Boston Marathon, said in a statement.

They ran the race in 2:40 one year and competed in six Ironman Triathlons. Hoyt would use a rope attached to his body to pull Rick in a boat during the 2.4 mile swimming portion. It consists of 112 miles on a bike and a 26.2-mile run.

They were inducted to the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame in January 2020.

Hoyt retired from the competitions in 2014, citing health issues. They had planned to stop in 2013, per the Associated Press, but went one more time after they were unable to cross the Boston Marathon finish line that year because of the bombings.

Rick Hoyt kept competing with Bryan Lyons, a dentist, taking over the pushing in 2015. Lyons died unexpectedly last June at the age of 50, per the AP.

Sports world remembers Dick Hoyt

Tributes poured in from the sports world after news of Hoyt's death. The BAA said it was "tremendously saddened" and called Hoyt "one-of-a-kind."

"Dick personified what it meant to a be a Boston Marathoner, showing determination, passion, and love every Patriots’ Day for more than three decades," the BAA said in a statement. "He was not only a fan-favorite who inspired thousands, but also a loyal friend and father who took pride in spending quality time with his son Rick while running from Hopkinton to Boston."

The BAA said the duo competed in its 1,000th race together at the 2009 Boston Marathon. Hoyt served as Grand Marshal of the race in 2015 "in recognition of his impact on the event and Para Athlete community." A statue of the two was erected at the front of a school near the marathon's starting line.

"Dick Hoyt was an iconic part of the Boston Marathon for decades," Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said on Twitter. "Like so many, I was inspired by Dick and his son Rick when we saw them cross the finish line every year."

Boston mayor Marty Walsh said on Twitter that Hoyt "epitomized what it means to be Boston Strong and inspired so many along the way."

The city's sports teams also honored Hoyt.

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