David Hirsch talks to special father Dick Hoyt. Dick and his son Rick, a non-verbal spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, have competed in over 1200 races including 34 Boston Marathons and Six Iron Man Triathalons. Hear their amazing story on this Special Fathers’ Network Podcast.
Dad To Dad 11 – The Legendary Dick Hoyt Who Has Pushed His Son Rick In 1,200+ Races Including 34 Boston Marathons & Six Ironman Triathlons.
Tom Couch: This is the Special Fathers Network podcast. The Special Father’s Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process. New fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for fathers to support fathers.
Sometimes the mentor father is just there to answer a few questions. Sometimes they become good friends. It’s a proven support system for new fathers with special needs kids. If you’re a father looking for support or if you’re a dad who’d like to offer support, go to 21stcenturydads.org that’s 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: Hi, I’m David Hirsch and this is a Special fathers Network Podcast, stories of fathers helping fathers.
I’m thrilled to bring you. Our guest today, the legendary Dick white.
Dick Hoyt: Rick is the athlete and I’m just out there alone and hand my arms and my legs.
David Hirsch: Dick’s oldest son Rick was born as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, unable to walk her talk in 1977 with the help of the special computer device.
Dick told his dad he wanted to participate in a five mile benefit run for a young paralyzed lacrosse player. Dick, who was not a runner, pushed Rick in his wheelchair at the entire five miles coming in next to lap that night. Rick using his computer, said,
Dick Hoyt: he said, dad, when I’m out on an, it feels like my disability disappears, which was fairly powerful.
David Hirsch: That was just the beginning. Since then, they’ve done over 1200 races, including 32 Boston marathons and six iron man triathlons all around the world.
Dick Hoyt: Messages. Yes, you can. You can do anything you want to do. As long as you make up your mind, you can do it.
David Hirsch: Dick and Rick had been an inspiration to people all across the country and around the world, and Dick is here with us today to tell his story on the SFN podcast.
Dick Hoyt: It was Rick that got us into running and I wouldn’t be running today if Rick didn’t ask me to.
Tom Couch: So here now is David Hirsch’s conversation with special father Dick Hoyt.
David Hirsch: Uh, I’m here today in Holland, Massachusetts, talking with the legendary Dick Hoyt, who along with his son Ricky, who is 56 makeup team white Dick. I’d been at an admirer of yours for years. I think of you as a poster child for the word commitment.
Thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the special fathers network.
Dick Hoyt: My pleasure.
David Hirsch: You and your late wife Judy had three boys, Russell, Robert, and Ricky, the oldest of the three boys who was diagnosed at birth as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. Let’s start with some background.
Where did you grow up?
Dick Hoyt: I grew up in a little town North of Boston called North writing. Okay. And actually it was so small. My graduating class only had 45 people.
David Hirsch: And where were you in the class
Dick Hoyt: and me, I was probably about the middle.
David Hirsch: So small town.
Dick Hoyt: Very small time. Yes. And matter of fact, the way I played football, basketball, baseball, cause I only had three sports, but I was captain of a football team. So.
Okay. So I, I just had so much fun with it, but it was very difficult because you had to play both ways on football. You know, you’ve had to be on offense and defense.
David Hirsch: So, uh, you grew up in a small town, but on a big family.
Dick Hoyt: Yes. Yeah. There was five boys, five girls, and we never fought that. Each other we live known is the cleanest, healthiest family going to school.
David Hirsch: How would you describe your relationship with your dad? When you were young and then as you became an adult, when you’re both adults.
Dick Hoyt: That you know, all 10 of us. I think that I, I spent more time and more, had more fun with my dad and my mother because my father wanted me to be a boxer. You know? And my mother says, no, this, you’d be a box and you’d break your nose.
So instead I played football and broke my nose.
David Hirsch: It’s too funny.
Dick Hoyt: Yeah, yeah, it’s true. Now. Having 10 children and he had a job, and for my mother to be home with the 10 children, and he spent as much time as possible to be with the 10 children and do as many things as possible with all of us, like on weekends and stuff. And he’d make sure that he gets.
Do something with all of us. You couldn’t have a better mother and a father.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s very interesting that, uh, he wanted you to box. Your mom says no, and then you break your nose five times while you’re playing football. That’s very funny. Um, so where did you go to school?
Dick Hoyt: Went to school in North Redding.
David Hirsch: Okay. Yeah.
And then from high school, where did you go from there?
Dick Hoyt: I didn’t go to college. Okay. No, I, I was very upset when I grew up. Graduated from high school and I was scared because I didn’t prepare myself for college. And so I ended up going into the military and then ended up spending 35 years in the military.
Again, when I went in, I started out as an enlisted person. I was the fitness control off, said no smoking off, so weight control officer. So they hated me, you know?
David Hirsch: And they’re trying to break people their bad habits. Yeah. Wow. That’s remarkable. And that was a long career. Yes. So you went straight from high school into the military and then retired when you were around 55 from what I remember.
Yep. Okay. So let’s, uh, let’s talk about your personal connection to the special needs community to begin with. Uh, what was your first reaction upon learning. About Ricky’s diagnosis when he was born.
Dick Hoyt: Well, you know what happened was I took Judy in at like four 30 in the morning because you know she was, she was ready.
She said she’s ready to go and all that. And so when I got into the hospital and the doctor. Where’s the air and all that. And he says, she’s not gonna, you know, we received the baby for quite a while. He said, I suggest you go to work and we’ll give you a call. So I got a call, they told me that she had the baby and all that, but they had problems.
And so when I got in the hospital, he was laying on his stomach, you know, and I thought he was doing pushups. I said, you gotta be kidding me. He’s just, he’s don’t push them, but he was having spasms.
David Hirsch: Like a seizure.
Dick Hoyt: And so then the family doctor explained what’s going on because he had somebody in his stamp family that ended up having cerebral palsy and stuff.
They ended up, not this doctor that they said, you know, forget Rick, put them away, put them in an institution. He’s going to be nothing but a vegetable for the rest of his life. And I said, no, we’re not going to do that. Call me and bring him up like.
David Hirsch: He’s your first child. Yeah. So you didn’t have any other experience being parents.
Right. So the, the advice of the medical community, just to be clear, was that, uh, he’ll be better off in an institution. We know more about these things than you might know. That’s the advice at the time.
Dick Hoyt: Yeah. But we said, no window. And the other thing, we didn’t want you to most of these children that light that they put him in special arrangements in special schools and stuff like that night.
He didn’t want that. We wanted him to be in the public schools. Just like, you know, all the other kids, but you know, he couldn’t talk. Oh, walk into anything like that. But when we ended up getting him the regular schools and what was amazing to where he couldn’t talk when he was 12 years old, you know, that’s when we was trying to lay to get him in school.
And my youngest son, Russell, was only eight, and so they started fooling around with the alphabet. And that’s how they started spelling and stuff like that. You know a E I O hook cause Rick knew the alphabet and he’d shake his head yes or no. And that’s amazing. And that’s in some of the books we’d written.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well let’s go back just a little bit. Took the advice to begin with was, you know, you should institutionalize them. You and Judy decide, Nope, that’s not what we’re going to do. We’re going to try to mainstream them. Where are you getting some advice. Encouragement from some people, doctors or others that you know, that would be the right thing to do or that you could do this.
Dick Hoyt: Yes, but we do. We went to children’s hospital in Boston and we met some doctors from there and we were talking with them and they were giving us some good advice. And matter of fact, they, we had neighbors that used to come in because they wanted him to get some exercises and stretching and stuff like that.
So we’d had like. Four or five people from the neighborhood would come in and then stretch his legs and his arms and stuff like that. Yeah. Amazing.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s really important early on. Right now, they just say, Oh, he’s not going to be the same. But to make sure that he’s as engaged as he can possibly be.
And that’s gonna, you know, lead to his physical development. And then you never really know at such a young age with somebody’s cognitive or intellectual ability is going to be.
Dick Hoyt: Right. Yeah.
David Hirsch: So that’s fabulous. So against the advice of the doctors who decided to not institutionalize Ricky, and. Talk about some of the other important decisions that you and Judy made early on in Ricky’s development as a young person.
Dick Hoyt: We decided that we were going to bring Rick up just like any of the child.
So anything that other families were doing, our own families, how we would break it up isn’t how we buy that book. And it’s amazing. You can talk with a computer and and all that. I mean, he’s graduated from high school. He’s graduated from Boston university. He’s got the distinguished graduate award from Boston university, and don’t think I’m up.
David Hirsch: Who would have guessed really? Right. So I’m so thankful that. You did not take the advice of the medical community at the time, and it’s living proof, living proof that, um, anything’s possible. Yeah. And it doesn’t always turn out that way, but, um, if somebody is not given the opportunity. You’ll never know.
Dick Hoyt: I’ll never know. You’ll never know. No. And that was one that has days of my life because we lived two hours away from Boston university and the drive in and drop him off with people we hardly knew as personal care attendance. That was tough, but nine years it took him, but he did it. And to get the distinguished graduate I lot, yeah.
David Hirsch: That’s remarkable. Yeah. It’s truly remarkable. Yeah. So, uh, what was it like balancing your 30 plus year career on the air national guard and raising three boys. Um, what are the challenges that, you know, Ricky, um, provided to the family?
Dick Hoyt: Well, you know, everybody knew that we had Rick and that he had problems, but they all accepted him.
You know, because we did everything with him. That we do with the other two. And the other two would take rec and they do things with him without the mother and father, you know, like they take them outside and they play baseball with them and suddenly you push into the basis they used to build tots up in trees and they used to carry them up in these Drake.
Tanya, it’s amazing. We go camping because we’d love to camp as a family, you know, and they have this one pools there. And so the place would be surrounded with people around a pool. We take wreck and throw him in the pool and he’d look up and start laughing. Everybody’s freaking out around the pool, you know, it’s amazing.
But he is cross country skiing. We take them class countries, you know. Sled behind my back and then pull them. But we did everything with him, play hockey, you know, and he always wanted to be the goalie, but he wanted a sheet of plywood in front of them that
David Hirsch: help them out a little,
Dick Hoyt: help them out a little bit, you know, it taken to the beach and they’d be ready having the Shan just like everybody else.
So he was brought up just like everybody else.
David Hirsch: Well, I think that’s. Not the secret, but you know, that’s part of why Rex developed as much as it has. Right. You haven’t treated them like delicately. Don’t touch him. You know? Gotta always look out for him and you’re not. Being irresponsible, I’m sure, but you were just trying to say, Hey, he’s a young guy and he’s wants to do the all, all the same things that other young guys want to do with his brothers and with his classmates and things.
Dick Hoyt: That’s one thing that people don’t believe that we used to do a lot of camping. And stuff. And I used to care about stuff like that, you know? So there was this one weekend we were up in New Hampshire and I was carrying them up a mountain, and I was ahead of Judy and the two boys. I had the two boys and I had to keep changing them, you know, going up the mountain stuff.
And I had an ammo with his shoulder and there’s another family coming down the mountain. And he was drawn in a little bit in the back, you know? And so in this family, get down to what Judy and up last was, they said, did you see that man going up the mountain? His son is dead, and he’s going up there to sacrifice him.
Oh my God. Yeah, that’s true. That’s wow.
David Hirsch: What was Judy’s response to that?
Dick Hoyt: And she just laughed.
David Hirsch: Oh, that’s remarkable. Well, you can’t control what other people are going to say or do.
Dick Hoyt: No.
David Hirsch: Well. That’s a really important thing. So what do you think the impact has been to other voice as a result of. Their older brother.
Dick Hoyt: Well, I think it was tougher on Rob, who was the second one because he used to come up to me and he said, dad, he says, you spent all this time with Rick, and he don’t spend any time with me. Wow.
David Hirsch: That must have really touched you.
Dick Hoyt: Yeah, so I used to take the kids like me to come go with a pocket, that newspaper or something like that.
I used to take them. But then I used to take Rick too. But you know it took long to take. Correct. Cause we had to take them out. We had to put him in a chair and stuff. And then when you get to the store, you got to pick them up and carry them and stuff like that. But through, I did complain a bit, but now he understands it and he got ahold of that.
And when Russell. The third one come. It was a lot easier far Rob, because then he had somebody to play with and do all these different things and Russell was very good, and in fact, Russell is really good. Russell’s the third one now, because Judy, she started a camp for kitsch. You know, and Rob and Russell, you know, actually I started it too, because we didn’t have any buildings, and so I bought a tent from the military, and that’s how it gets set up.
We had a big tent, and then I used to cook in this farm when they first get started, you know, but we did everything as a family. To get one of those camps known as is there. They go by a certain name or not.
This one was called camp for. Kids can’t tell what it was. It was a camp for physically challenged kids and kids who were not physically challenged.
David Hirsch: Okay. So mixing them together.
Dick Hoyt: Nixon them take care of that. Yes. And that worked out awesome.
David Hirsch: Well, it’s a two way street. Um, the, um, kids like Ricky are, you know, trying to keep up with their. Able-bodied friends. And then I think that there’s some sensitivity training going on, uh, with the typical kids, you know, when they’re around those that have different challenges, how could you not be a better person as a result of that experience?
Dick Hoyt: Right. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Yeah. That’s fabulous. So, um, we’re gonna roll the clock back to 1972. Rick’s age 10 and I remember, I think I remember reading the story was that with $5,000 from Tufts university, you were able to get a computer.
Dick Hoyt: Yeah. As you can see, I use my computer to speak for me when I was born, the doctors told my parents to put me in an institution.
I am lucky that my parents did not do that, or I might not have been able to be here today.
And that was a big turning point. And then Ricky’s experience because he. It’s been nonverbal. None. This was an opportunity for him to start communicating, relate that story.
Well, we wanted to get Rick into school and defensible.
The school said, no, you can’t go because he doesn’t understand. You have an image going on. So we taught Rick the alphabet. We did the numbers with them and we did a lot, or he didn’t even know. Right? That’s the way. Try it again. I’m in school. And they said no. So we went and met some engineers from Tufts university in Boston, and we talked to them and they said the same thing that he wouldn’t be able to learn.
So I says, well, tell Rick at yolk. So they told Rick a joke and Rick racked up and they said, wow, maybe there’s something there. So they said, if you get a $5,000 we’ll be able to communicating the vice versa. Rick, now you’ve got to remember. That was before fight. He sent me to go $5,000 was a lot of money.
David Hirsch: Oh, no, no. I remember because I would have been 12 years old at the time, and I remember my first job out of college, I worked for Pricewaterhouse. It was $15,500. That’s if you had a college degree and a CPA. So I realized that was a lot of money back in the early seventies money.
Dick Hoyt: Yeah. So, uh, they built the machine and they’re coming to a house and everybody’s betting with their first, which Rick is ever going to say, mom or dad or something.
And his mom says he behind mom and meet a debt. No, it’s going to be, hi dad. Well, the Boston Romans were going for the Stanley cup, and the very first words he ever said was GoPro.
David Hirsch: Fabulous. I love that story. Yeah.
Dick Hoyt: Yeah, well, we were good friends now with the moments, especially child or the captain and the Berlin’s because what happened was chakra called me up and he says, I’d like to have you to be my personal trainer.
And I said, I’m shy, but I don’t have time for it. So he bikes to work at practices and bikes home and he wanted to do triathlons and I says, I’m sorry, I just don’t have time to do one. And at the time they would go, they were in the Stanley cup. And they’re going up to Vancouver for the, I think it was the last game.
Yeah. And so we got a DVD, it’s called, I can only imagine. And when they get up there, they took that DVD and put all the guns in the rump and they played that DVD. I can only imagine by immersing them, it will be live when I walk by side.
David Hirsch: Some of that a hundred times.
Dick Hoyt: Yeah. Yeah. And then so, so they all stood out when that video ended and then they all get up and sit in bricks. Very first word, go Bruins. So they, so they called us up when they. Got home and they said, we just want to let you guys know you guys are positive reason why we won the Stanley cup.
So they invited us in the Boston, in the Spalding hospital, and so Rick and I went, but the Stanley cup and this balling hospital visited patients. And then that Tuesday night they took us out to the North end. Nana. Wow. And it was just unbelievable. You know, unreal. I just love hockey players. He had rough and tough.
But for AF professional athletes, I don’t think they come much better than hockey players.
David Hirsch: You know, there’s something different going on there. Uh, all five of our kids skated for them, including two other girls played hockey and not insignificantly. And, um, um, with most sports, uh, if you’re not one of the.
First team members, you know, you’re going to be sitting on the bench. He might not even play very much, but with hockey, three chefs, everybody’s
Dick Hoyt: playing.
David Hirsch: Right. Not everybody gets the same amount of ice time, but everybody is involved. It’s very fast paced and there’s a different level of commitment there.
So I agree with you. Yeah. So, um, Ricky starts communicating with the computer starting at around age 10, and then, uh, he gets into the public school a couple of three years later. Because now he’s able to communicate.
Is that how it worked?
Dick Hoyt: He’s able to communicate.
David Hirsch: So what grade would he have been in? Um, at age 13, would you guess or remember?
Dick Hoyt: Yeah, he was, he sat at his computer. He was in the high school out in Westfield, Massachusetts.
David Hirsch: Okay. So, um. The, the journey, the team journey, which has already begun, but I mean, formerly begins from what I remember, uh, around 1977 when Rick was 15. And he’s the one, he said he wanted to participate in a five mile, uh, benefit race for a young, paralyzed lacrosse player.
Um, and you were not a runner. Uh, and you guys finished nearly last from what I remember of that very first race. But, uh, the, the most powerful thing. For me was what he communicated to you after the rise? What was that?
Dick Hoyt: He said, dad, when I’m out running, it feels like my disability disappears, which was fairly powerful.
Now he’s a kid in a wheelchair that can’t talk usually fast and his legs, and now they’re out there running. His disability disappears. Wow.
That’s, I mean, it just brings tears to my eyes to think about that. So, uh. That was the turning point, wasn’t it?
That was the turning point. That’s what started everything.
David Hirsch: So what was it that you did next, or what was the followup to that?
Dick Hoyt: Well, the problem with that was I was disabled afterwards for two weeks. I could hardly walk. So I told Rick, I says, well, we’re going to continue running. We’re going to have to get a chip built so I wouldn’t be hurting the badly. So we wanted the crotch at mountain in Greenfield.
He actually met an engineer up there and we told them what he wanted for a chair, and he just got some old pipes and some old tubings and they weld them together. And then we get an insert for Rick to sent in. And at the time we had, uh, uh, a company that was working with us. And I told them, I says, you know, you’ve got to build these chairs because other people are gonna want them.
Well, they just walked away. And at the time there were no, the only wheelchairs they had with the two wheelchairs the pros had. And they didn’t have any baby joggers at the time. And just think if we had Pat in a chair like that.
David Hirsch: Yeah. It’s like a Forrest Gump type of situation.
Dick Hoyt: Yeah. So what we did, that’s what we call them, running chia, and we took that shit Joe over to what we call call office to facial race, which was over in Springfield, Massachusetts. And we get over there. They was 600 runners in it, and Rick and I finished that 300 out of the 600 right in the middle.
Yeah. So after that we used to go to a different town and then Devon city and run. And finally people started coming up to us and talking to us, and they could see that Rick had that personality, essentially humor, and he loved to be with people. But when we first started, I used to get a lot of phone calls and letters from other families saying, what are you doing dragging your disabled son to all these races?
Are you just working for glory for yourself? Oh, yeah. A little hole. And he says, he’s the one that’s dragging me to all these races. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Well, it’s a team effort.
Dick Hoyt: Obviously. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
David Hirsch: Um, but, uh, I imagine that that criticism might’ve stung, you know, when you first heard that, when you first sort of questioning, you
Dick Hoyt: very first heard that.
David Hirsch: Well, it’s great that you-
Dick Hoyt: just don’t, we just. He didn’t pay attention to anybody. We went out and did everything the way we wanted to do it.
David Hirsch: Be yourself.
Dick Hoyt: Yeah.
David Hirsch: What a great lesson. I’m at an early age, not only for Rick yourself, but, uh, you know, for other people.
Dick Hoyt: Yeah.
David Hirsch: Um, so, uh, from what I remember, um, it was about 1981 at Rex age 19 that you did your first marathon.
Dick Hoyt: That’s where the first blast on. Yes. Uh,
David Hirsch: did you train for that?
Dick Hoyt: Yes. Cause we, we were doing races. But what happened was Rick and I sat down at the fall after, you know, we got the chair and all that. And, and, uh, Rick and I talked and we discussed that we wanted to run the Boston marathon in 1981. And so I applied to the Boston athletic association and said, no, you can’t run with us because you’re different than anybody else.
But the Boston marathon has a wheelchair division. So we applied through them, but they also turned us down saying, no, you’re different than us. You can’t run it with us. See, they propelled the wheelchairs themselves where I was pushing rec. What they did say is, if you want, you can line up behind us and run.
And that was in 1981 so we’d lined up behind them and the wheelchair behind the wheelchairs. Yes. And we land. And now, I don’t know if you heard about marathon runners talking about hitting the wall. Oh yeah. Well, I hit the wall at 22 miles and I felt terrible. I didn’t think I’m going to be able to finish it.
All the other owners were going by us and that pond me back and everything else, but we ended up finishing that first marathon in three hours and 18 minutes, 85% of all the other runners.
David Hirsch: Well, you’re up. Pedal still just got notched up a couple. I’ve done a handful of marathons. I have never come anywhere close to that time.
So it’s a remarkable, uh, you might’ve hit the wall, but you kept going.
Dick Hoyt: We kept, yeah. W yes. Yeah. Yeah. And we took it. It’s funny cause we got a picture of us on the cross, the finish line and his record, the biggest smile you ever saw in your life. And he has me looking like I’m dead.
David Hirsch: So, uh. You did the first marathon in 1981 and you’ve done hundreds of marathons from what I remember
Dick Hoyt: We’ve done over, uh Oh that looked at over 1200 races.
Rick Hoyt: The most of it is the one that I look forward to all year long, and that’s definitely my favorite race.
David Hirsch: So, uh, give me a couple of the highlights. So some of the marathons that you’ve done here in the States or beyond for that matter?
Dick Hoyt: Yeah. Well, in 1982 we tried to do Boston again, and so I talked to will Coney, who was the executive director of the BAA, and asked them why we couldn’t be official incidence.
And when he said he was, we didn’t have any qualifying criteria. And what he meant by that is you have to run a certain time depending on your age. So I had to run in Rick T age, which meant I had to run under two hours and 50 minutes to run Boston with Rick. So that fall we went down to Washington D C to the Marine marathon.
It’s just called the people’s marathon. And right now they’re getting over 40,000 runners and he’s, he’s so funny cause when we get down there, he went out and bought himself a Marine outfit to wear it in the memory marathon. And we ran that marathon in two hours and 45 minutes and 20 seconds, and that qualified, both Rick and I for the Boston marathon, we took our official certificates and minimum at the VA, and we’ve been official entrance ever since.
Matter of fact, 1996 to hundredth running at a Boston marathon, Rick and I were on it as Centennial heteros Vita B, a N S onset, John Hancock. Yeah. And Rick, when Rick was much younger, he was very much involved with the East of sales programs, where he’d go to the day camps at swim camps, the overnight camps and stuff.
So on the 25th running of the Boston marathon, Rick and I, we dedicated at the Easter seals and we were able to raise over $370,000 and it all went to Easter sales. And since we’ve been running, we’ve been able to raise over a million dollars, face the shelf.
David Hirsch: That’s remarkable. Simply remarkable. So, um, to qualify for the first Boston marathon that you did, you had to have a time of less than two 50, two hours and 50 minutes, and you made it by about five minutes to 45 to five.
Is that your fastest marathon time or have you done better over the years?
Dick Hoyt: Uh, let’s see. Two, we ran a two 40. Now that done, that was the, my main club. And we have been inducted into the, I am in triad into the hall of fame for the Marine Corps America.
David Hirsch: Okay. So, uh, what was it that propelled you to start doing triathlons?
Uh, you’d done a lot of running again. What, um, what was it that date?
Dick Hoyt: McGillfrey. Who is the director of the Boston marathon now, and he was that, he was into triathlons. He’s the one that brought triathlons to the East coast, and Rick and I get in good with Dave, and we’re good friends with him. And we went down running the Falmouth road race, and Dave had just taken over.
You know, directorship, and he looked at me and he said, Dick, you look like a good triathlete. You have to do triathlons. Well, I looked at Dave and I said, only if I can do it with Rick. He said, okay, Dick, why don’t you see what type of equipment that you can get built so you wouldn’t wreck and compete together?
At the time, I did not know how to swim, and I was in the process of changing houses. So I says, well, if we’re going to do triathlons, I don’t know how to swim. I’m going to buy a house in a Lake. And this is the Lake that I learned.
David Hirsch: Now is this a Lake or a river?
That’s the Lake. What’s it like? It’s a Lake.
It looks really long. I didn’t know had an end.
Dick Hoyt: Yeah, so I bought the house on the Lake and I’ll never forget the first time I went and jumped to the Lake, I sunk. I couldn’t swim at all. So it took, it took about a year before I could really get into swimming, you know, although I did join the YMCA for a little bit so I can learn it.
And then, so we ended up doing a first ride on, and I’ll never forget it. And when I dated, I put a vest around my chest and I tied a rope to the back of the vest and to the front of the boat. The boat is as a 10 foot Boston oil. And what we do, we had a beanbag chair. The rubber raft. Yeah. Right. Yeah. We hadn’t been back.
She had made up that red glaze and then we put a life preserver around. Yeah. And then I, you know, I was out there and I was kicking like crazy. And Rick to soak and we, .
David Hirsch: You probably have to have a longer tow rope so it doesn’t get as wet. Right.
Dick Hoyt: So once, once we finished the swim, I have to pick Rick up and carry him to where the bike is.
David Hirsch: To the transition area.
Dick Hoyt: That’s what the bike looks like. So what I had to do, I pick him up and I put him in in the seat. Okay. But when we first started, we used to have a glass shield, like we used the Pearl over the top of it to protect brick from any, did break stuff that.
David Hirsch: The bugs rain and things like that
Dick Hoyt: And all that stuff.
And when we applied to do the world’s championship, I am in a Toronto Kona, Hawaii. They said we couldn’t use that shield because that shield gave us an advantage over all the other athletes. These are
David Hirsch: like the little like a little wind advantage or something.
Oh my God.
Dick Hoyt: I mean he said the best triathletes from all over the world.
David Hirsch: You’ve got a big advantage. So let’s just go back a little bit cause I have a little triathlon experience myself. Tick. You did not start out with the iron man distance to do.
Dick Hoyt: No, no. Well actually the first one we did, we did a mile swim. We did a 25 mile bike and a 10 mile run. That was the first one we ever did.
David Hirsch: The Olympic distance.
Dick Hoyt: That sounds like this. Yeah. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Okay. And you did a number of those before you started ratcheting it up. All GCA. Yeah. Yeah. But to, to, to, to the iron man, you know, you gotta swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and then run a full marathon and, well, you’ve done six iron mans. Yeah.
Dick Hoyt: From what I remember. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Where were they? What were locations were there
Dick Hoyt: the first time? This one was up in Canada. Okay. Germany and Japan. And then we’ve done, I think it was three I am in, is out in Hawaii,
David Hirsch: which is the hardest?
Dick Hoyt: The one out in Hawaii
David Hirsch: because it’s in the ocean as opposed to in a Lake.
Dick Hoyt: Well, I think a lot of it has to deal with the, the, um. The temperature out there, the heat, he, it is very, very hard out there. Yes. Yeah. And so, and then that actually the bike is the toughest part for us. We made, we made good time, you know, uh, in the swim at the IMF. But the bike bike was tough, but we did make the bike and then the run we had, we had a good run and it was just amazing for us to be the first ones in the world to ever complete that IMF high hotline.
Now, how long has it been instill? We’re the only ones in the world that do it. Other people have tried it, but they can’t make the cut off times.
David Hirsch: Yeah. That’s remarkable. So, uh, you’ve done. Uh, 1100, 1200 plus races. Um. Have you ever not finished?
Dick Hoyt: You know, I think with finished Debbie one, there was one a marathon on an IAS that I had a heart attack.
Literally, literally, I had a heart attack and I didn’t even know it. Oh my God. I’m actually infamous place up to the last mile, but I stopped to get a glass of water and this guy passed us, but there was a big Hill there. I’ll never forget that. Having a heart attack.
David Hirsch: So a, what was it that you know. You realized that you had the heart attack?
I mean, it was afterwards or
Dick Hoyt: it was afterwards. Yeah. I went to the doctor and they gave me an EKG, and so that, then I had to go and have three stents put in.
Holy moly how many
David Hirsch: years ago was that?
Dick Hoyt: Well, that goes away back way back.
David Hirsch: Were you in your fifties?
Dick Hoyt: Oh, yeah.
David Hirsch: Okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s remarkable.
So, um, you’ve done marathons, you’ve done Ironman triathlons on, uh, you’ve actually done a cross country. Right as well. Yes.
Dick Hoyt: Yeah.
David Hirsch: What was that about?
Dick Hoyt: What started, he knew of, Rick had cerebral palsy, and so we wanted to raise money for federal policy, so we contacted several policy from Washington. You know, and we talked to them and they didn’t, they said, it’s not, you’re not gonna make any money from it.
So we had to refinance finance a house. We had to get a hundred thousand dollars to get money, you know, and we used to start the Trek, like we’d be up at five 36 o’clock the latest to start the Trek. And what we did is at the end of the day, we Mark the road. And then we went back to that to start it, but we wanted to start early enough so that we could quit at three or four o’clock, two o’clock whenever we got the miles in that we wanted to get in that day.
Yeah. And that it worked out very, very well.
David Hirsch: Yeah. So this was how many days and how many miles was that cross country?
Dick Hoyt: Right? It was 3,770 miles, and I believe it was 45 or 47 days straight days. And that’s another thing. We’re talking to people and they said that there’s no way in hell you can go out there and bike every day like that, you know, and do what?
And she’s, well, we did it. And we had ABC sports with us for 10 days because they didn’t believe we’d make it up those mountains and through Colorado and all that. Yeah,
well, that’s remarkable. Um, I had a similar experience a three years ago when I rode from Santa Monica to Chicago. And most people thought, Hey, you’re 54 years old, you’re not an athlete.
Um, you’re not an endurance bike rider for that matter. You know, what gives you the right to think you can do this? And you know, I didn’t know. What I didn’t know. And I surrounded myself with people that you know, had been, uh, very experienced at doing endurance bike riding. Lawn Haldeman is the person that comes to mind that gave me the best advice.
And we set out on this 21 day journey to ride 2300 plus miles 112 miles a day, every day for 21 days. And God willing, you know, let’s not overlook things. You know, the importance of surrounding yourself with others. And, um, the advice I got early on was to. You as an RV, but only as a backup, but you know, get a good night’s sleep.
Yeah. And a couple of times we did have to Mark the spot on the street and go back there the next morning to resume the ride to, so we could say that we rode every mile. Right.
That was really important. Side note, but we stopped in Nevada someplace and it was a gambling casino and Rick, and limit gamble.
And so I just, him and I went in, he would gamma cause he had only been there for a little while. And, uh, all of a sudden somebody came over and asked him for his ID. I says, Oh, I’m sorry. He said, we don’t have it with us. Well, you gotta leave and empty. Oh, was he. 92.
David Hirsch: He would have been 30 years old.
Dick Hoyt: That’s right. He’s 30.
David Hirsch: Yeah, but it sounds like it was a journey and every one of those days, the 40 45 days, whatever it took is different. What a memorable experience.
Dick Hoyt: That’s the beauty of the United States. Why across now not dry. It’s so beautiful too.
People don’t realize how beautiful this country is, and you know, you see the horses and the cows and running beside you, you’re going up the Hills and just rattlesnakes there, but it is such a beautiful country too. Typically enjoy it like that, you know, pedal bipedal and not Vika.
David Hirsch: Plus you’re doing something with one of your kids.
It doesn’t get any better than that.
Dick Hoyt: Well, eh, well, actually two of them were with me. Yeah. Okay.
David Hirsch: So, uh, did you meet some people along the way? What type of reception did you get? You know, from time to time.
Dick Hoyt: We really get a great reception. Everybody with that. Yeah. We did. I did. It was awesome.
David Hirsch: I think you had mentioned that, uh, because of your military experience that there was, uh, something that was going on state to state to.
Dick Hoyt: Yes. Yeah. That, that, that was so awesome just to meet all the, all the military people along the way and, and what they did for Rick, you know, in Nebraska where they made me, cause I wrote Lieutenant Colonel make me a full Kyle and to make him a full college. Then Ohio, find out about it. And they make him again.
David Hirsch: That’s too funny.
Dick Hoyt: Is it
David Hirsch: one-star or
Dick Hoyt: what is it? Just the lunch that, yeah, he hasn’t gotten promoted since. Okay.
David Hirsch: Well, let’s, uh, talk about some of the more memorable, um, races you’ve done. I know that you were planning on retiring, uh, back in 2013, and your plan, I think was to. Do the Boston marathon one more time. In 2013.
Dick Hoyt: 2013 it was going to be my, well, because I had back problems and I was really hesitant, so I just said, well, I’ll do it in 2013 and we were able to find a local dentist from bill and mass, and he volunteered to push Rick, you know, from then on. Ended up in the Boston marathon and he’s done some triathlons and stuff.
So it’s just so it’s awesome that Rick and continue on, you know. and he’s going to keep going until, you know, he’s not going to stop it. Which it
David Hirsch: wasn’t until 2013. That sort of horrific year.
Dick Hoyt: That was the, uh, the bombing. And it was unbelievable because, uh. We, uh, what happens is Johnny Hancock is a sponsor and we stay at the Sheraton hotel in Boston, a whole group.
And there was like 25 people and we get up at five, 5:30, and we take out private bus and they drive us out to hockey. And this year. 2013 we had predefined statue was unveiled.
David Hirsch: Oh my
Dick Hoyt: before the Boston marathon. John Hancock is proud to be here with all of you at the sooner school to officially unveil a Lifesize run statue in their honor. Thank you very much for presenting us with the sculpture. I want to thank Paul Lauer. Friends in Hopkinton for helping with the placement of the sculpture in front of a center school. We are so grateful for this honor and for your friendship and support. It was unbelievable.
It was there. You come see the statue in the building and there’s so many people they have was unbelievable.
But Rick and I, we, we started off ahead of runners right behind the wheelchairs when we run. We got out about 20 miles out, I noticed more police activity. So he went over to one of the policemen and I said, is there anything going on? And he said, yeah, two bombs exploded and to Rick. And I. The marathon was all over cause I family were in those bleachers and I Riley’s families went in the bleaches, but lucky for us, the bonds exploded right in front of him, but across the road.
Wow. Yeah. So Rick and I had to keep running, so we kept running and we got to the 25 mile marker and the police stopped us that that’s it. Then the marathon is all over, all, all that. Nobody can go any further. Then their speakers canceled it. From that point where we were, yeah. So some people made it across it and some didn’t.
And uh, at that time there was 10 people. Count. Rick and I together running together and uh, five of them said they knew how to walk from there to the Sheraton hotel cause it was only like a mile away. And then I had a good Samaritan. They come out of the crowd and he says, Dick, I have a Jeep over there.
If you want, you can take it if you want, I’ll drive you to the Sheraton hotel. So he drove us to the Sheraton hotel and took us an hour. That’s how bad.
David Hirsch: That must’ve been pandemonium.
Dick Hoyt: It was, it was every, every place you’d go and. Please stop me again. So we ended up getting to the, in the hotel and we went in. We waited until all the family and all around us come in. And fortunately for us, nobody was in injured.?
David Hirsch: That was a blessing. Yeah. None of your family members or friends were directly impacted by that.
Dick Hoyt: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. And so I said, well, we had this problem, so I said, I’m going to run. 2014 again, and we did run 2014 again, but we ran it as a group.
All of our runners, there were about 25 I don’t know the exact number, but you know, for the seven years prior to that team white, you guys are the Boston marathon, you know, we get, they wouldn’t let his hand, but then they, matter of fact, board members of the marathon come up and said, we want to thank you for what you’ve done for this marathon.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, uh, you’ve revolutionized, um, what people think about as marathon. Um, most people just think it’s running race. There’s obviously a wheelchair division and you just by sheer perseverance, uh, force of personality. So that you know, we want to be a part of this too. And you’ve created an opportunity for others, you know, behind you, Tim Horton, and beyond.
So let’s talk about teamwork. What is that?
Dick Hoyt: Teamwork? Is is a group of people. These are all volunteer people and nobody makes any money from this. And what they do is they go out and raise money to buy chairs that they can put people in that cannot. Run a walk and then they go out and they either provide somebody to push the chairs for it, or the family can provide, uh, uh, a runner pushing that person that is physically challenged or anything like that.
And it’s just amazing
David Hirsch: So it started here in Boston
Dick Hoyt: It started here.
David Hirsch: So, uh, you started team white and now there are groups in Arizona, Canada core, Delaine, Northeast, South Dakota, Texas, Las Vegas, and, uh, Virginia Beach. So the idea is to raise the money to purchase, uh, chairs that would allow people to participate who wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate and to \do it.
Dick Hoyt: We’ve got mothers pushing mothers.
David Hirsch: Really?
Dick Hoyt: Yeah.
Well, you got mothers did it this April and they did it in wheelchairs or they didn’t know how we should, they don’t come out nothing. So it’s for everybody. It’s called inclusion, you know? That’s the big word. What we’re trying to do.
David Hirsch: Acceptance and inclusion, right?
Yeah. Well, that’s remarkable,
Dick Hoyt: but it’s amazing what these people are doing. I can’t be so proud. It’s unbelievable.
David Hirsch: you’ve started a little revolution of sorts, right? You know, you’ve been the example and other people have said, Oh, they can do it. Why not us? Right? And you’ve made a direct impact on those lives, on indirect impact, and to the broader community, which is. You know exemplary.
Dick Hoyt: We’ve really had a great life, you know, and I’m, I’m just so proud of everything that we’ve been able with Dolan and we’re still doing it, you know? And I just can’t wait to see these team Hoyts follow I, especially when they start going overseas and stuff.
David Hirsch: So what are some of the most important takeaways that come to mind when you think about.
Raising a child with a difference or for that matter, uh, advice that you might give to dads who have a child with a physical or intellectual disability?
Dick Hoyt: I think that the thing is, the way that we find out, Rick, Rick, we probably wake up like he doesn’t have anything and we’ve found a way to do things with Rick.
And we did. Most of the time it was our way and stuff like that and that they should be involved and get other families involved with the, our families too, to help out the fathers and stuff like that. I know, I know that there are people that have problems with it. People are physically challenged and stuff like that, and it’s too bad because sometimes some people get hurt and all that, you know, it’s just too bad.
You just gotta publicize it more and get more. Yeah.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So, um, Dick, why is it that you’ve agreed to be a mentor father, as part of the Special Fathers Network?
Dick Hoyt: Because I feel that that’s very important. That’s something that everybody should do. And I see people, you know. Doing things that are physically challenged with their kids and all of that.
It just makes me so happy and it just makes me want to do more to help it out. It’s just like I was talented early. I saw I was just down to an ax city and I saw all these fathers with their kids and they’re all, you know, talking to each other, helping each other out and everything else. I had, matter of fact, at the end, I complimented them.
I said, this is awesome. You know. Yeah. We need more of this going around the world, not just the United States around the world, and physically challenged people. It’s just unreal. I just, I have a big smile on my face every time I go and we have a team, white roadways, and we go to different races and stuff.
Yeah. To see, even with us helping Easter seals, they have these children and I can help them by making donations and all that, and raising money from them by running.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So is there anything else that you wanted to add before we wrap up?
Dick Hoyt: Well, I want to thank you for coming and you’re doing an outstanding job.
This is, this is unbelievable. Yeah.
David Hirsch: So if somebody wants to get involved with team Hoyt or support the team Hoyt foundation. How would they go about doing that?
Dick Hoyt: The best thing to do is go to the website. It has everything in it.
David Hirsch: So that’s teamhoyt.com
Dick Hoyt: Teamhoyt.com.
Outstanding. So Dick, thank you for taking the time and for the many insights.
David Hirsch: As a reminder, Dick is just one of the dads who’s agreed to be a mentor. Father, as part of the Special Father’s Network, a mentoring program for fathers. Raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation your own, please go to the 21st Century Dads website, which is 21stcenturydads.org.
Thanks again, Dick.
Dick Hoyt: My pleasure. Thank you.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs. Through our personalized matching process. New fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for fathers to support fathers.
Sometimes the mentor father is just there to answer a few questions. Sometimes they become good friends. It’s a proven support system for new fathers with special needs kids. If you’re a father looking for support or if you’re a dad who’d like to offer support, go to 21stcenturydads.org that’s 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And thank you for listening to the Special Fathers Network podcast stories of fathers helping fathers.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network podcast was produced for 21st Century Dads by Couch Audio, and again to find out more about the Special Fathers Network. Go to 21stcenturydads.org. 21stcenturydads.org.
Dick Hoyt: I am the body. Rick is the heart and mobility is freedom.