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Boston Marathon legend Rick Hoyt dies at 61

Dick Hoyt with his son, Rick Hoyt, and Team Hoyt crossing the finish line of the 118th Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Rick Hoyt, a Boston Marathon icon who completed the race for decades in a wheelchair with his father, inspiring millions as Team Hoyt, died Monday at the age of 61, the family said.

“It is with profound sadness that the Hoyt Family announce the passing of our beloved brother and uncle, Rick Hoyt this morning,” the family said in a statement. “Rick passed away due to complications with his respiratory system. 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 Hoyt, a quadriplegic who had cerebral palsy, was also a “pioneer” in education, his family said.

“His mother Judy Hoyt changed the laws allowing her son to be educated alongside his non-disabled peers,” the family said. “His family is heartbroken and requests time to grieve and will share details as they become available.”

Rick Hoyt finished the Boston Marathon 36 times, according to the Boston Athletic Association, most recently in 2017 with Bryan Lyons, who died in 2020. Between 1980 and 2014, he completed 32 Boston Marathons with his father, Dick Hoyt, who died of heart failure in March 2021 at the age of 80.

Rick Hoyt announced his retirement from the marathon that October, saying his body could no longer endure the punishing 26.2-mile race.

“I have ... serious lung issues after repeated episodes of pneumonia, therefore my health has to be my priority,” Hoyt said in a recorded statement. “I will run shorter races when appropriate.”

Rick Hoyt participated in his first race in 1977, according to the Team Hoyt website. It was a 5-mile benefit run for a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident, and his father pushed him in his wheelchair the whole way. They finished next to last. After the race, Rick Hoyt told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.”


The family hasn’t yet decided whether to go forward with a race named in Dick Hoyt’s honor that’s scheduled to take place Saturday in Hopkinton.

Dave McGillivray, president of DMSE Sports Inc. and the longtime director of the Boston Marathon, paid tribute to Rick Hoyt on Monday.

“Earlier this morning, we all lost one of the most inspirational heroes this world has ever known,” McGillivray said. “Sadly, Rick Hoyt passed away peacefully today and is now back with his father, Dick. It’s hard to believe they both have now passed on but their legacy will never die. Dick and Rick Hoyt have inspired millions around the world.”

Rick Hoyt raises his hand as he is pushed across the finish line by his father Dick during the Bud Light US Triathlon in Boston, Aug. 24, 1986./Boston Globe Archive

McGillivray said he was “so fortunate to have known them and to have been a friend of theirs for over 40 years and even to have been their manager at times. One of the greatest athletic thrills I ever experienced was pushing Rick in the Finish at the Fifty 10K race at Gillette Stadium. We had so much fun together reminiscing about the past, about doing the Bay State Triathlon, the Ironman Triathlon World Championship, the Falmouth Road Race and so many other races.”

“We all will truly miss Rick as we have missed his father but we will never, ever forget the gift they both left all of us — that we all can overcome obstacles and we can accomplish special things in our lives that have positive impacts on other peoples lives, too,” McGillivray added. “As their famous motto stated, ‘YES YOU CAN.’ ”


On social media, people and organizations remembered Hoyt as an inspirational force.

“The Massachusetts disability community has lost a legend today,” the Arc of Massachusetts, a nonprofit that advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, posted on Twitter. “Rest in Peace to Rick Hoyt, member of the iconic Team Hoyt Boston Marathon duo with his late father, Dick.”

Envisioning Access, an Allston-based group that serves people living with physical disabilities, recalled Hoyt as a “true Boston icon.”

“You were an inspiration to us all,” the group said.

In a 1990 Globe interview, Dick Hoyt said that people stared awkwardly the first time he and his son took the starting line in Hopkinton.

“They didn’t want us there,” Dick Hoyt recalled. “The runners didn’t think we belonged with them, and the wheelchair division wouldn’t accept us, either.”

There was no precedent in the Boston Marathon for a father pushing his son in a wheelchair.

“Now we sit at the head table,” the elder Hoyt said. “Quite a turnaround.”

The following year, father and son told the Globe they were looking forward to the home stretch of the race in Kenmore Square.

“It’ll be unbelievable the number of BU people yelling, ‘BU, BU,’” Dick Hoyt said with a chuckle.


“That’s where most of my fans wait,” added Rick, then 29, as a broad grin spread across his face.

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report. This breaking news story will be updated.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.