BOSTON (CBS) – For over three decades, they were two of the most recognizable participants in the Boston Marathon.
But this year, half of that equation will be missing. At least from his regular spot in the race.READ MORE: Coronavirus State Of Emergency Ends In New Hampshire
We’re talking about Dick and Rick Hoyt, the father-son duo who has completed 32 marathons together. Dick has pushed his son, who was born a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, in 32 Boston Marathons and thousands of other races since 1977, when Rick told his father he wanted to be a part of all the fun.
After that first race, a five-mile benefit run, Rick told his father that he didn’t feel handicapped when they were running.
“This was a very powerful message to me,” Hoyt recently told WBZ-TV. “There was no stopping after that.”
But this year, Dick Hoyt will not take his normal spot behind Rick. The 74-year-old has retired from full marathons, and this year will serve as grand marshal of the Boston Marathon, riding in the pace car at the head of the race.
But Rick will still be making his way through the 26.2 mile course with a new, but familiar, face giving him a push.
That man is Bryan Lyons of Methuen, a member of Team Hoyt since 2009. Lyons always had a passion for distance running, but was injured by a drunk driver in 2001. He returned to running after a lengthy recovery, but finished his first half marathon about half and hour slower than prior to the accident. Discouraged, Lyons turned to a friend, who turned him onto triathlons.
“I joined a triathlon team that Dick’s brother was a member of. I started training and realized swimming was more than splashing around and cannonballs, that cycling was more than riding a bike with big handlebars and a banana seat,” Lyons recalled, saying there was no feelings of discouragement when he completed his first triathlon in 2006. “The joy of running came back and I had a newfound love for triathlons.”
That’s what led to Lyons joining Team Hoyt. He received an email from them in the fall of 2008, with the team looking for charity runners. Lyons did not hesitate.
“I knew I’d do another marathon. For it to be Boston with Team Hoyt, that was the only impetus I needed.”READ MORE: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments
He got close to both Hoyts as the years went on, and trained for this year’s race by pushing a stroller filled with sandbags.
“I had a woman run alongside me, she said, ‘Are those sandbags?’ Yes, they are,” he said with a chuckle. “It seems kind of silly to run around with sandbags in a stroller. I just tried to explain what I was doing.”
Lyons believes it will be difficult for Dick to be a spectator for this race, but says he has been nothing but supportive to him as he trains with Rick.
“Bryan is just an awesome guy, a good friend of the family. He’s just the perfect guy,” said Hoyt. “He’s a gentleman, a great human being.”
“It’s a privilege and an honor,” Lyons said. “I’m not replacing Dick — no one can do that. I’m merely a fresher set of legs.
“The heart and inspiration are right here,” he said, looking at Rick.
In all of their Boston Marathons, the fastest finish for the Hoyts was 2:40 — an incredible time for anyone, let alone someone pushing a wheelchair. Lyons know he has some big shoes to fill come Monday, but he isn’t concerned about how fast they cross the finish line.
“As long as he [Rick] is smiling when we cross the finish, then nothing else matters,” said Lyons.
“He’s going to have a good run and a lot of fun,” said Hoyt. “He’s going to inspire a lot of people.”MORE NEWS: 'Oh My God, I'm In A Whale's Mouth': Lobster Diver Says He Was Nearly Swallowed By Whale Off Cape Cod
CBS Boston is your home for the 2015 Boston Marathon. Live race coverage begins at 4:30 am on WBZ-TV and 9am on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 and CBSBoston.com.