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Posted: March 15, 2006
Athletics: It Lives Within Us ALL
By Mark L. Tiburon
“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human sole on fire.” -Marshall Foch
Combined they are bigger than Shaq and Kobe. Their willpower makes Batman and Robin look like wimps. They have a bond so tight they make Maverick and Goose (Top Gun) look like worst enemies. And even Joe Montana and Jerry Rice can’t match the ongoing legacy of the greatest racing duo ever.
Once Upon A Time…scratch that. In 1962 Rick Hoyt entered this world gasping for air. His umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, cutting off the flow of oxygen to his brain. His body was deprived of oxygen for such a long period of time that he has been unable to walk or speak ever since. Within his first few seconds on earth, Rick Hoyt experienced what life is all about – obstacles – and more importantly, what it feels like to attack them head on and overcome. It must have felt good, because he’s been overcoming obstacles ever since.
Rick left the hospital as a “Spastic Quadriplegic with Cerebral Palsy,” and it seemed every doctor thought this diagnosis offered little hope. Doctors claimed that without the ability to control his limbs, Rick would never be mainstreamed into society. Speech professionals said the ability to speak was simply out of the question. Many urged his parents to put him into an institution because he “just didn’t understand what was going on around him.”
Yet, against the advice of professionals, Dick (Rick’s Dad) and his wife Judy brought their son home and “brought him up like any other child.” It didn’t take long for Mr. & Mrs. Hoyt to realize how bright their son was – the Hoyt’s knew deep down that Rick could comprehend and communicate. The undeniable evidence? As Dick says: “We could tell by looking in his eyes. The frustrating thing was that he couldn’t tell us he understood what was going on. Nobody could tell us.”
However, Rick’s intelligence wasn’t viewed as “undeniable” by the public schools in his neighborhood. Principals refused to believe Rick could learn, and schools continually denied his admittance. The Hoyt’s didn’t give up. Using $5,000 of the Hoyt’s saved funds, a team of engineers from Tufts University built Rick an interactive computer that allowed him to write out his thoughts using slight head movements. Ricks first words? “Go Bruins.” He had clearly been following the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs that season. At age 14, only 2 years after his first words, Rick conquered another milestone when he was accepted into a public school.
From his first day, Rick faced one obstacle after another, and his critics seemed to be lining up at the door. Rick’s father, Dick, recalls that not even a single doctor suggested the slightest ray of hope. “They did all the tests on him at all these different hospitals and the only conclusion they came to was ‘Forget him…put him away - he’ll be a vegetable all his life.’ That was 43 years ago!”
How wrong they were. Only 16 years after this “expert” diagnosis, Rick proved that his physical capacity was as effective as his mental capacity. At a truly momentous occasion, Rick and Dick crossed their first finish line at a local 5 mile race. That night, via his interactive computer, Rick told his Dad that “When we were racing it felt like my disability disappeared.” Rick was hooked, and so was his partner.
Since then, Rick and Dick Hoyt, a.k.a. “Team Hoyt,” have crossed over 910 finish lines in races ranging from 5k’s to Marathons to Ironman Triathlons. Their times? Absolutely incredible. Their personal bests include a 56:21 15K, a 1:21 Half Marathon, a 2:40 Marathon, and even a 13:43 Ironman Triathlon. On top of this, Team Hoyt conquered 3,700 Mile, Forrest Gump style run/bike across the United States for 45 consecutive days!
How do they do it? When they run, Dick pushes Rick (90 lbs.) while he sits in a special running chair. For a swim, Dick uses a rope and pulls Rick while he lays in a full size life raft. And for biking, Dick pedals Rick while he sits in a special bike chair. Sound tough? We’re not done yet. Throw in the fact that at the time of Rick’s first race, Dick was a 40-year-old who was at best a beginner runner, hadn’t ridden a bike since age 6, and didn’t even know how to swim! Does this sound like a man built for 24 Boston Marathons while pushing his Son? Does this sound like a man built for over 200 Triathlons while pulling, pedaling and pushing his Son? Does this sound like a man built for a grueling trek across the US while pushing and pedaling his Son?
What are you built for?
To this day Dick says: “The secret is Rick. He is what gets me through my workouts. Rick is a competitor, he’s a fighter all the way, he never gives up and he doesn’t let his disability get in his way. On top of that Rick likes to win. I get all my motivation from Rick.”
Team Hoyt competes with such determination and passion that if you ever had the honor of watching them, your jaw would drop, your heart would skip and your body would overflow with one emotion…admiration. Without saying a word this incredible team answers life long questions that begin: “Can I…?” “Is it possible…?” “Is it realistic…?” They race for the love of running, competition, and sport, but in the end they do much more than run, race, and compete…they inspire.
It lives within us all but few acknowledge it. Team Hoyt has unleashed it. It is a power with the persistence of the sun, a power stronger than steel, more precious than gold, and more explosive than all the weapons on earth. Few realize that within YOURSELF, within ALL OF US lies a power that can defy the odds, redefine logic, change lives, and transform the word ‘impossible’ into a trite, sarcastic remark.
This is the POWER OF ONE; the belief that dreams are achievable regardless of how impossible they may seem.
Once you embrace this gift that human beings possess deep down, the power inside you is unleashed and your obstacles will mutate into motivation, your limits will become your support level, stars will no longer be reached for…they will be stepped on as you strive for another galaxy. AND, instead of your stories beginning with “once upon a time,” you will proudly open with “Let me tell you a TRUE story about when I was your age”…and best of all, you can still use those fairy-tale endings.
Where are you running today?
A fanatic runner, Mark L. Tiburon first laced up his running shoes around age 10. He has been competing in road races & triathlons ever since. Along with running, Mark is in the process of following the footsteps of Team Hoyt as he pursues his own dream. For inspirational speaking engagements and general feedback, Mark can be reached at mark.L.email@example.com
© Copyright 2005 Peak Running Performance. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission
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