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18 Days: A special return for Team Hoyt

4/3/2014
Dick and Rick Hoyt, known as Team Hoyt, were a mile from finishing their 31st Boston Marathon in April when the race was halted due to the bombings. AP Photo/Stew Milne

In the 26 days leading up to the Boston Marathon on April 21, ESPNBoston.com will share inspiring stories, detail important logistics and go inside the planning for what promises to be an event like no other in the wake of last year's bombings. There are 18 days until the race.

Dick Hoyt and his son, Rick, were about a mile from the finish line in last year’s Boston Marathon when they were stopped, along with so many others, because of the explosions on Boylston Street. It ended what was to be their last trip through the course from Hopkinton to Copley Square, upon which they’ve received worldwide fame for their perseverance, enthusiasm and relentless drive.

Those are qualities that even the most brazen of acts, such as those which occurred along Boylston Street, could not deter. In fact, those acts have only reinvigorated the father-son team.

“It’s very, very emotional because of what happened last year,” said Dick, who has finished more than 70 marathons, including 30 in Boston, and hundreds of triathlons, duathlons and virtually any other distance event one could imagine.

“Last year was going to be our last Boston Marathon, but because people were killed and injured, we are running again this year and really looking forward to it. I think everybody in the world wants to run the Boston Marathon this year. Everybody’s so hyped up.”

Among those in the hyped-up category are the 50 Team Hoyt runners supporting The Hoyt Foundation, which “aspires to build the individual character, self-confidence and self-esteem of America's disabled young people through inclusion in all facets of daily life.”

Inclusion was the centerpiece of the Hoyt family mission after Rick was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth. Dick and his wife, Judy, chose to ignore the recommendations of some physicians to institutionalize their son and instead treated him like they would any other child. With the help of a computer that assisted in his communication, Rick blossomed, graduating from Boston College in 1993 and racing alongside his father -- who pushes him in a custom-made running chair -- in those 1,000-plus events with unwavering enthusiasm.

That enthusiasm and excitement will serve as a reminder that the Boston Marathon remains something to be celebrated, and not feared.

“He’s more pumped than he’s ever been,” Dick said of his son. “He really is. He’s so excited. He loves it, especially this year.”

Dick said that because of the nature of this year’s event, many of the runners on his team have expressed a strong desire to finish with him. There is this need to be as much a part of the event as humanly possible, to soak up all the emotion of a Team Hoyt Boston Marathon experience.

The elder Hoyt gets it. He and his son experience that emotion perhaps more than any others on the course.

“It’s just unbelievable how you get pumped up. The last couple of miles is just crazy, it’s unbelievable,” he said. “I can’t hear for like two weeks after the Boston Marathon, it’s so loud. And I know this year it’s going to be twice as [loud].

“It’ll be really awesome because when Rick and I started running Boston nobody knew who we were or what we were trying to do and now this will be our 32nd Boston Marathon and everybody knows us. Everybody says, ‘You guys are the Boston Marathon. We see you go by and we all go to our TV so we can see you go across the finish line.’ It’s just unbelievable.”

Dick hopes the members of his team, which is roughly twice the normal size due to the invitations given to charity runners who did not finish last year, will be alongside as he and Rick head down Boylston Street for the last time. Ever realistic, Dick just hopes they can keep pace with the 73-year-old father pushing his 52-year-old son.

“I think there will be people that will be able to catch us,” he said.

However, there may be nobody on the course that can match Team Hoyt for perseverance, enthusiasm and relentless drive.