During my Ironman triathlon journey, I used to watch inspiring videos to get myself even more motivated. There was one story that kept coming up on Youtube. It was the extraordinary zero to hero story about a loving father and his disabled son. It was the story of Rick and Dick Hoyt.
Here is their story.
Below Zero – Rick Hoyt’s Early Life
When Rick Hoyt was born in 1962, he was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth which left him unable to talk or walk. Rick’s movement was largely restricted to the movement of his eye and to the side of his head.
The doctors told his parents they should send their son away since the condition was irreversible and he would be a “vegetable” for the rest of his life, but Dick resisted pressures to institutionalize his son and prepared himself for the long battle ahead.
Dick Hoyt made a firm decision to give his best effort and provide Rick with everything that a normal kid should have. Rick’s mother Judy spent hours each day teaching Rick the alphabet with sandpaper in the hope that Rick would have the opportunity to attend a public school like all the other children.
It wasn’t going to be an easy task as most of the school authorities and doctors believed that Rick was mentally retarded due to the fact that he could not speak.
One day in 1972, a couple of engineers heard about Rick Hoyt and paid him a visit. After that meeting they found out that Rick had a responsive mind capable of laughing on a joke, and were convinced that Rick was only limited by his inability to communicate.
This was the seed the young parents needed. Although money was tight, Dick was able to raise a small amount of money to fund the building of an interactive computer that would allow Rick to write out his thoughts through lateral head movements.
With this communication device, Rick was able to attend public school for the first time. After graduation, Rick was accepted into the prestigious Boston University and graduated with a degree in special education. He then got a job at Boston College’s computer laboratory, helping to develop communication systems for disabled people that would improve the level of independence for people like himself.
Quite an epic story, but hold on, the journey had just begun.
The Hero’s Journey: Impossible Does Not Exist.
The first words Rick typed to his parents were not “I love you” but “go Bruins”. That year, the Boston Bruins hockey team had made it to the Stanley Cup finals. It was the first hint of Rick’s passion for sports.
One morning, Rick told his father that he wanted to take part in a five mile charity race for a paralyzed runner. Dick Hoyt, a former Lieutenant Colonel, was always an avid fitness enthusiast, but was never a good runner. He saw Rick’s passion to help others and agreed to rise to the challenge. He pushed Rick in his wheelchair all the way to the finish line and for the first time in his life Dick didn’t feel as though his son was handicapped.
After their successful first race together, Dick and Rick Hoyt decided to become a team and enter into more competitions as a channel to express their message that anything is possible. Within a short time, Team Hoyt started taking part in a large number of marathons and in 1981 they managed to finish in the top quarter of the Boston Marathon field.
When friends and family heard that Rick and Dick Hoyt were going to participate in a triathlon, they told Dick that it was not possible, especially for someone like Dick who was, at the time, a below average swimmer and had not touched a bike since his childhood. Dick was determined to make the impossible possible, and trained long hours before and after work to get into top shape.
In their first triathlon race, Dick admitted that he “sank like a stone” during the swimming portion, but he refused to give up in front of his son and pushed all the way to the finish line.
Both father and son had an unceasing enthusiasm to stretch their physical limits. Each time the son desired something, the father approved, until one day Rick asked his father for the unthinkable: participation in an Ironman event.
For those of you who don’t know what an Ironman triathlon is, it is one of the most demanding one day sporting events in the world, which includes three grueling endurance components, a 3.8km ocean swim, 180km bike race and 42.2km full marathon run.
I participated in an Ironman event in New Zeeland a few years ago and it was a hard fought battle from start to finish. To think of doing it while pushing, pulling and carrying someone else, is almost unimaginable.
Dick Hoyt took the Ironman challenge in Hawaii (the hardest of them all), and took it like no one else. When running, he pushed the wheelchair for his son; while riding, he carried Rick on a specially designed front-seat; while swimming, he tied Rick to his waist.
Dick and Rick Hoyt, together, have completed more than 200 races, including 6 Ironmans….
For me, the story truly expresses the powerful inner resources we all have at our disposal when we choose to love someone unconditionally. Every time I think about Dick Hoyt pushing his son Rick in a stroller, or strapping him onto a special bike, or pulling him in a specially-made raft for close to 17 hours, I am inspired to persevere and maintain focus on my dreams.
If this story cannot give hope to not only the impaired community, but to all of us, about living a life of purpose, what can?
If this will not motivate us to seek the moon and stars, what will?
Team Hoyt’s story teaches us that any adversity can be won over if the right kind of flame burns inside us.
As you watch the video clip below and how Dick Hoyt pushes and carries his son, you may want to stop and ask yourself: “What’s my excuse for not doing whatever it takes to have what I want in life?”
Enjoy the video and be inspired to take action on your biggest goals.
Live Your Dreams!