Renowned Boston Marathon runner Dick Hoyt, who became an icon of the race for pushing his son in his wheelchair the 26.2 miles dozens of times, has died, the Boston Athletic Association said Wednesday. He was 80.
They ran the race 32 times, with Rick Hoyt in a custom chair, starting in 1980 and ending in 2014, according to the BAA, which organizes the Boston Marathon. They were fan favorites whose "bond and presence throughout the course became synonymous with the Boston Marathon."
"Dick Hoyt was one-of-a-kind. We will sincerely miss Dick, and are keeping his many family and friends in our thoughts and prayers," the BAA's statement said.
Rick Hoyt has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, so his dad pushed his son across the marathon finish line dozens of times. Team Hoyt completed more than 1,000 races together, with the 2009 Boston Marathon being the thousandth. They also crossed the country by bicycle and by running over 45 days, according to the Team Hoyt website.
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Their long-distance race partnership began with a five-mile fundraising race in 1977, when Rick was 15, according to their website. Afterward, Rick told Dick, "Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped."
In 2013, a statue of father and son was erected in front of a school in Hopkinton, near the Boston Marathon's starting line. Their last Boston Marathon was supposed to be the 2013 race, but they were unable to finish it because of the deadly bombing near the finish line, so they returned in 2014.
After Dick Hoyt stopped running the Boston Marathon, he was named the Grand Marshal of the 2015 race.
Hoyt was a lieutenant colonel with the Air National Guard for 37 years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.