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Dad, disabled son vow to return to run final Boston Marathon

April 21, 2013 at 9:07 AM ET

Video: Dick Hoyt and his son Rick have biked and raced across the country for the last 30 years, completing 1,100 races, and have never once finished last, despite the fact that Rick is in a wheelchair. The duo took part in the Boston Marathon, and said the bombings have only added to their resolve. TODAY’s Erica Hill interviews father and son.

All 1,091 races completed by Dick and Rick Hoyt have been special, but last Monday’s Boston Marathon was to be a crowning achievement for the father-son team.

The Hoyts’ day began jubilantly. Near the starting line, they were honored with a life-sized bronze statue in commemoration of their 31st Boston Marathon.

After posing for photos, the pair began the race. Things started well: Dick Hoyt, 72, is known for making good time while pushing his disabled son Rick, 51, in a specially engineered running chair.

"We were starting to have a great run. As a matter of fact, we were like an hour ahead of last year’s team and then all of a sudden, I saw a little more police activity," Dick told TODAY's Erica Hill on Sunday.

They were at the 25-mile marker — just 1 mile away from finishing — when Dick asked a police officer what was happening. That's when he learned two bombs had detonated at the finish line.

"I got very concerned about that because my youngest son was there, his wife and his two boys," he said. Dick's girlfriend and her family were also there among the spectators.

"Fortunately enough, it didn't happen right in front of them. They were far enough away so nobody go injured," he said.

But many, many people were hurt. The scene devolved into chaos. Dick didn’t know where to go or what to do with his son Rick, who was born with cerebral palsy and is unable to walk or move his arms or his legs.

Dick Hoyt, right, and his son, Rick, stand next to a statue honoring them near the start of the 117th running of the Boston Marathon, in Hopkinton, Ma...
Stew Milne / AP
Dick Hoyt, right, and his son, Rick, stand next to a statue honoring them at the starting line of the Boston Marathon on Monday. The Hoyts' day began happily before devolving into terror.

A police officer suggested they hail a cab, but Rick’s running chair is too large to fit in a taxi. A good Samaritan with a Jeep offered them a ride, and fellow members of Team Hoyt who had been running near them offered to push Rick’s chair back to their hotel.

Somehow, the driver of the Jeep managed to navigate through the blocked roads and the mayhem right up to the front entrance of the Sheraton where the Hoyts were staying. Dick carried Rick up to their room — and only then did the magnitude of the tragedy begin to hit them.

“The thing about the Boston Marathon is that it’s always such a joyful day,” said Dick, who lives in Holland, Mass. “Everybody’s so happy and it’s such a positive attitude. And then to have this happen?

“What kind of a world are we living in nowadays?”

Love in action: Dad, 72, races in nearly 1,100 events with disabled son

Image: Dick and Rick Hoyt running in the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013
Charlie Abrahams
Dick and Rick Hoyt are shown running in the Boston Marathon on Monday. They were at the 25-mile marker when they learned that two bombs had exploded at the finish line.

The Hoyts had thought this year’s Boston Marathon would probably be their final one, but Dick Hoyt said their thinking has changed. They now plan to run in next year's race to honor this year's victims and survivors.

“We’re definitely going to run next year, and we’re going to be stronger next year, and I know the marathon is going to be stronger next year,” he said Sunday.

Hoyt said he expects others will feel the same, leading to overwhelming interest among runners wanting to participate in next year’s race.

“I don’t know how they’re going to handle that. It’s just unbelievable,” he said. “All these people are so strong and we’re going to be strong, and we’re going to stay strong.”

Eun Kyung Kim contributed updates to this story. It was originally published April 16 at 4 p.m.

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