Dick Hoyt, Boston Marathon Icon Who Pushed His Son in a Wheelchair at Races, Dies at 80

Dick Hoyt died in his sleep at his Holland, Mass., home on Wednesday morning, according to his family

Dick Hoyt
Dick Hoyt. Photo: Gregory Rec/Getty Images

Dick Hoyt — the beloved Boston Marathon runner who pushed his son, Rick Hoyt, in a wheelchair at the annual race for decades — has died at the age of 80.

He died in his sleep at his Holland, Mass., home on Wednesday morning, according to his family.

"He had an ongoing heart condition that he had been struggling with for years and it just got the better of him," Russ Hoyt, one of his sons, told the Associated Press.

According to Russ, he and his other brother, Rob Hoyt, broke the sad news to Rick, who is "sad, as we all are, but he's OK."

"You could see it in him, it was like someone hit him," Russ said.

Dick Hoyt
Dick and Rick Hoyt. Matthew J. Lee/Getty Images

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Dick ran his first marathon with Rick, who is quadriplegic and has cerebral palsy, in 1977 after his son wanted to help raise money to pay medical bills for a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed from the waist down in an accident.

The father-son duo, known as Team Hoyt, participated in their first Boston Marathon in 1980.

"When we run it makes me feel like my disability disappears," Rick told PEOPLE in 2013, after the pair had competed in more than 1,000 races together — many of them marathons and triathlons.

Together, they launched the Hoyt Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps build the self-confidence and self-esteem of disabled young people in America, in 1989.

Dick Hoyt
Dick and Rick Hoyt. Elsa/Getty Images

Through running, Dick and Rick had also raised more than a million dollars for organizations such as Easter Seals and the Children's Hospital Boston-Augmentative Communication Enhancement Program.

Overall, Dick completed the Boston Marathon 32 times with Rick before retiring in 2014.

The pair have a statue in their honor at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

In the wake of Dick's death, the Boston Athletic Association said in a statement, "The B.A.A. is tremendously saddened to learn of the passing of Boston Marathon icon Dick Hoyt. Dick personified what it meant to a be a Boston Marathoner, showing determination, passion, and love every Patriots' Day for more than three decades."

Dick Hoyt
Statue of Dick and Rick Hoyt. getty

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"He was not only a fan-favorite who inspired thousands, but also a loyal friend and father who took pride in spending quality time with his son Rick while running from Hopkinton to Boston," the statement continued. "The pair's 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 association said.

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