No, that title is not a misspelling of the Holy Cross fight song… After four years, trust me that I know exactly what a “HOYA” is. Instead, it’s in reference to an honest-to-goodness idol of mine who stopped by the Hogan ballroom last night, whom I had the absolute privilege to meet afterwards.
For anyone who doesn’t know the incredible story, Dick is the self-called “slower half” of the Team Hoyt running duo. His son Rick is severely disabled with cerebral palsy after birth complications, and as such has never been able to walk or talk in his life. When Rick was in high school, he asked his dad if he could help him participate in a charity 5k run to benefit a classmate who’d been paralyzed from the waist down; in the decades since that first request, Dick’s pushed his son across the finish line of more than 1100 races, including 32 Boston Marathons, 6 IronMan ultra-triathlons, and a “Forrest Gump”-esque run literally across the country (that’s 3770 miles at once, for anyone wondering).
Dick, a former serviceman who’d never been a runner in his life, is ranked by Men’s Health Magazine as the 24th fittest man of all time — Rick was ranked 25, which Dick jokes is the only time he’s ever finished ahead of his son. The pair faced enormous adversity when they began racing in the 80s, with race organizers saying there was no place for the handicapped Rick to compete, but they’ve now risen to being one of the premier athletic duos in the world. Heroes in places like El Salvador, Germany, and Japan, the two have revolutionized the roadracing industry to the point where Dick believes that, “in the next few years, don’t be surprised if there’s races where you’ll only be allowed to enter if you’re pushing a handicapped person.”
As someone who does his fair share of physical activity, let me just tell you that this man competes on another plane of existence; for anyone thinking they’re in OK shape, go see one of these talks and you’re in for a rude awakening. The pair have worked out an equipment system for their triathlons that allows Rick to be present for every stage of the race:
And then, once that’s all out of the way, all they have left to do is complete a 26.2 mile marathon run. Simple, really.
It’s in his capacity as a marathon runner that Dick is a true inspiration of mine. Both the times I’ve done the Boston Marathon, there’s usually a point circa-mile 15 or 16 where my legs start to feel like lead, and my morale bottoms out with the knowledge that I’ve got the dreaded Heartbreak Hill stretch right in front of me. Both times, however, I’ve suddenly come across the father-son pair, surrounded by a crowd of dozens of runners, and seeing their perseverance and tenacity always kicks me back into shape. It actually meant quite a lot to me being able to tell Mr. Hoyt this in person last night.
As a runner, and more recently as a marathoner, I’ve known about these guys for quite some time, so it really was a pretty big deal to me to be in the same room. When you hear about them, father and son, facing and CONQUERING the kinds of obstacles they have, it really does put things into perspective; I’m as prone as anyone to stress during finals season, but at the end of the day, it’s really small-ball compared to stuff like this. So to leave you for now, I’ll wish you all the best of luck on your finals and/or anything else keeping you from your Yule festivities, and just remember, when it’s 3am and you think you’ve bottomed out on your paper assignment: