By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – On Sunday, June 10, amateurs and elite athletes will compete in the fourth annual Marlborough Triathlon. Streamline Events co-founded the race with 2008 Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker and elite coach (and Marlborough resident) Tim Crowley. Partners in the event are Marlborough Hospital and the Marlborough High School Boosters team.
For the first leg of the course, racers will swim one-third mile in the 150-year-old Fort Meadow Reservoir. Next, they will bike three five-mile loops around a combination of flat and rolling roads and then run two 1.65-mile laps, finishing the race at Marlborough High School.
Among the 500 individual racers and 15 relay teams slated to compete is the father-son team of Dick and Rick Hoyt.
Team Hoyt began in 1977. At the time, Dick was nearly 37 years old and was not a long-distance runner. His son, Rick (diagnosed at birth as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy), told his father that he wanted to participate in a five-mile benefit run for a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. His father agreed, running the five-mile race while pushing Rick in his wheelchair. After the race Rick said, “Dad, when I's running, it feels like I's not handicapped.” After this initial race, Dick began to train, running every day with a bag of cement in the wheelchair because Rick was at school and studying. It was the beginning of a legacy.
As of November 2011, the Hoyts had competed in 1,069 endurance events, including 69 marathons and six ironman triathlons. They have run the Boston Marathon 29 times. Also adding to their list of achievements, Dick and Rick biked and ran across the United States in 1992, completing 3,735 miles in just 45 days.
Dick, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard, said that Rick inspires him to continue competing.
“He is the one person that keeps me wanting to do this, so he can be out there competing on a regular basis just like anyone else. He loves it when we cross any finish line with his arms waving in the air and the big smile on his face,” Dick said.
Dick is also inspired by the thousands of people around the world who contact them to say that they are inspired and motivated by their story.
“Some of these people have been drug addicts and alcoholics, severely overweight, and some even on the brink of suicide,” he said. “They all say that once they have seen our videos or heard our story that it has changed their life completely, many of them giving up the drugs and alcohol, losing weight and no longer contemplating suicide. A lot of them have also gone on to start running and competing in triathlons. It is truly amazing!”
While Rick and his father share an incredible bond, Rick found great inspiration in his mother, Judy, who passed away from ovarian cancer two years ago. She was instrumental in getting Rick accepted into public school and worked tirelessly on getting chapter 766 (the model for the first federal special education legislation) implemented in Massachusetts.
“She never gave up on me,” he said. “She also never gave up on other people with disabilities either. She always believed in everyone. If it wasn's for her, I wouldn’t have had the education that I have today.”
Dick said that he is humbled to know that Team Hoyt is an inspiration to so many.
“It is still something that amazes me after all these years. After all, I am just a regular guy and to think that people come up to us in airports all over the country and know who we are is just amazing. I am honored that people consider me a role model, but they have to realize I am just like they are. I have to mow the lawn and rake the leaves and change the oil in my van. I am just fortunate enough to be able to have the ability to continue doing what I love, which is making sure that my son continues to be a part of the running and triathlon world,” Dick said.
Dick and Rick share an inseparable bond, resulting in their life mission statement: “Yes You Can!” According to Dick, he and his son often know what the other is thinking.
“My relationship with Rick means everything to me,” Dick added.
Dick described Rick as smart, happy, caring and a jokester.
When describing his father, Rick said, “He is a very determined man. He is determined for me and others to try to find the resources to help break down barriers. He is loving – everything he has done is out of love. He is loyal. Once he sets his mind on something, he will find a way to do it and/or finish it.”
As Team Hoyt continues to triumph over tragedy, they do so with a vision and a message of hope. In 1992 the Hoyt Foundation, an internationally recognized charity organization, was established. The mission of the nonprofit is to “build the individual character, self-confidence and self-esteem of America's disabled young people through inclusion in all facets of daily life.”
The Hoyts also go on motivational speaking tours.
To those facing similar challenges, Dick offers advice.
“I would encourage them to face their challenges head on and get as much information as they can about the challenges and how to deal with them. Ask questions and try to get advice from others that have been in a similar situation. In the end, they will have to make their own decision on the matter, but it is best to have some advice to guide you.”
To find out more about Team Hoyt and the Hoyt Foundation, visit http://www.teamhoyt.com/index.html.
To learn more about the Marlborough Triathlon, to register, or to see a list of sponsors, visit http://www.marlboroughtri.com/