Friday, December 22, 2006

I just had an email sent to me from a good friend of mine: What an inspiring story. It makes me think that I am capable of more than what I am doing and it really creates positive energy in me. I am posting this to remind me of what is possible.

Strongest Dad in the World
[From Sports Illustrated, By Rick Reilly]

I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots.

But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.

Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars–all in the same day.

Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?

And what has Rick done for his father? Not much–except save his life.

This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.

“He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life;'' Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. “Put him in an institution.''

But the Hoyts weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. “No way,'' Dick says he was told. “There's nothing going on in his brain.''

“Tell him a joke,'' Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain.

Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? “Go Bruins!'' And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, “Dad, I want to do that.''

Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described “porker'' who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. “Then it was me who was handicapped,'' Dick says. “I was sore for two weeks.''

That day changed Rick's life. “Dad,'' he typed, “when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!''

And that sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.

“No way,'' Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyt's weren't quite a single runner, and they weren't quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year.

Then somebody said, “Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?''

How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried.

Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii. It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don't you think?

Hey, Dick, why not see how you'd do on your own? “No way,'' he says. Dick does it purely for “the awesome feeling'' he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time'? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992–only 35 minutes off the world record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.

“No question about it,'' Rick types. “My dad is the Father of the Century.''

And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. “If you hadn't been in such great shape,'' one doctor told him, “you probably would've died 15 years ago.''

So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other's life.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father's Day.

That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy.

“The thing I'd most like,'' Rick types, “is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once.''


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great story Tom, I really like it. Thanks for sharing it. I will call you later to wish you a merry x-mas.


7:47 AM  
Blogger olga said...

This is a wonderful story that has been on mnay great sites, yet you never get tired reading it. thanks for reminding.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Tom Bailey said...

My site is not really a running site but I find many great running stories inspiring.

Runners like yourself are quite often the most positive people I find.

I just visited your blog I like the way you think:

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

Great quote.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Tom Bailey said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Jingoistic said...

Wow what a story, talk about devoted! Thanks for sharing that.

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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4:54 PM  
Blogger Terri said...

I've heard, read, or watched (the memory is going) this story before and found it very inspiring!

You're probably too young to remember but my father was once the assistant to W. Clement Stone the "original" thinker of "PMA" Positive Mental Attitude. I grew up surrounded by books and mottos written by my father's boss. W.CS was a guest on a television show my dad produced for ABC and he hired my father. Eventually my dad went back into television. Sadly he died last year at 67.

Found my way here via my friend Jenn at JeSais and btw, I eat blueberries every single day!

9:07 PM  
Blogger Pepper said...

There is a video of this gentleman and his son on youtube. I think, memory is not so good. It is true story of determination, spirit, and drive. Thanks for posting it.

Merry Christmas

10:05 PM  
Blogger Miao said...

If I remember correctly I think I saw a video on YouTube once which features Dick pushing his son in a marathon. Very touching.

9:48 PM  
Blogger G said...

That is an amazing story. So glad that I stopped by to read it. Thanks for your recent visit to a sub-blog of mine. I am feeling much better. Best to you in the new year.

7:40 AM  
Blogger Tom Bailey said...

I am glad people liked the story.

Terri - W clement stone is very connected with Napoleon Hill there are some books they worked on together. On the think and grow rich tapes clement stone speaks on them. His insurance agency did fantastic and what is interesting is how not only he did well but quite a few others have as well. Look at how well Warren Buffett has done in insurance and if you read the first chapter of think and grow rich look how the three feet from gold story ties them all in.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Mike Rebholz said...

Dick and Rick Hoyt are a true inspiration. I remember seeing a video about them at a conference two years ago. I can't help but cry when I hear their story. There is a really cool video of a story the Today show did on them at:


5:31 PM  

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