HOPKINTON — Cheering, roaring crowds celebrated the legacy of Boston Marathon legends Dick Hoyt and his son Rick Saturday, as hundreds joined a memorial walk and run that was an emotional and touching tribute to the longtime father-and-son running team.
Rick had planned Saturday’s event in honor of his father, who died in 2021 at age 80. The duo were Marathon mainstays, and for decades, TV cameras recorded Dick Hoyt pushing his son’s wheelchair along the 26.2-mile course between Hopkinton and Boston.
But before he could see the results of his work, Rick, who was born with cerebral palsy, died Monday from complications with his respiratory system, according to his family. He was 61.
The race was held Saturday because Rick had “put his heart and soul” into planning it, organizers said in a statement, and he would have wanted it to go on.
For participants who ran Saturday with heavy hearts, like Sarah Lake and her 15-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn Lake, of Pleasantville, N.Y., the race was a chance to carry on the work of Dick and Rick Hoyt.
“His disability put no limits on what he could do,” said Kaitlyn Lake, who has autism and described Rick as an inspiration. After the race, she added: “I feel awesome. I did it. And it’s not gonna be the last one.”
Dick and Rick Hoyt completed 32 Boston Marathons together between 1980 and 2014. After his father retired, Rick finished several more, including his last in 2017.
The Hoyts started racing together when Rick was 15, and they entered their first Boston Marathon four years later. They weren’t immediately welcomed by fellow runners, but they did not let that deter them, Rick would recall in a 2013 speech at the Espy Awards.
When they started running, “nobody would even talk to us,” Rick said in his speech.
“But because my dad said yes when I asked him to push me in the first race, and my family, especially my brothers Rob and Russ, have always stood by us and helped us preserve ... we are here,” Rick said.
Russ Hoyt, Rick’s brother, said in an interview that Saturday’s event — which included a 5-mile run and 2-mile walk — was designed to be accessible to athletes of all abilities.
Rick, he said, would have loved to see the massive turnout at the race.
“He is smiling down on us today,” Russ Hoyt said.
Russ also paid tribute to his mother, Judy Hoyt, who died in 2010, and originated the event’s slogan, “Yes You Can.”
After Rick was born, a doctor told his parents he wouldn’t amount to anything. Dick and Judy Hoyt refused to give up on their child and brought him home, Russ Hoyt said.
“My father looked at my mother and he said, ‘Can I do this?’ And she said, ‘Yes, you can,’ " Russ Hoyt said.
Those words would be repeated throughout Rick’s life. His mother would say it to him when he asked if he could go to school, or start participating in races.
“That message just keeps resonating throughout our lives,” Russ Hoyt said. “It allows people to do things that they think are difficult.”
The crowds that participated in Saturday’s race included runners on foot and pushed in wheelchairs. Young children jostled around the throngs of athletes; a few people brought their dogs.
Dave McGillivray, the longtime Boston Marathon race director who addressed athletes and spectators before the race began, described how much work Rick put into organizing the Saturday event, including attracting sponsors and designing the course.
“He was thinking about everything ... he would have been the next race director of the Boston Marathon,” McGillivray said.
Retired Bruins star Zdeno Chára, who ran in Saturday’s memorial race, told reporters that the event was a fitting tribute to Dick and Rick Hoyt.
“It’s just a proper way to honor them [and] their lives,” Chára told reporters after the race.
James Anderson, 30, who pushed the wheelchair of his running partner and cousin, Rusty Wilkins, 26, said seeing the Hoyt family and fellow racing teams helped him.
“It’s been pretty tough. ... it feels like Team Hoyt has been through quite a bit the last couple of years,” Anderson said. “It’s an emotional day, but it feels a little healing. It feels good to be here.”
Brendan Aylward, 30, who raced with 19-year-old Jacob Wyman, celebrated completing the race Saturday. When approached by a reporter, Wyman looked up from his wheelchair, grinned, and clasped the reporter’s hand in sign of victory.
Aylward said the Hoyts’ impact on running can be seen in the number of wheelchair athletes who showed up to compete Saturday.
“There are so many chairs here,” Aylward said. “The Hoyts’ legacy will never fade away.”
John Hilliard can be reached at email@example.com.