By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) – Dick Hoyt, a Boston Marathon icon who pushed his son Rick during the event for decades, died Wednesday. He was 80 years old.

Hoyt died in his sleep. He had been dealing with health issues recently.

Dick and Rick Hoyt in 2014. (WBZ-TV)

Dick and Rick Hoyt had been a fixture of the Boston Marathon since 1980, when Dick first pushed his son, born a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, in the race for the first time. The duo began doing other marathons around the country in 1977.

The elder Hoyt had to retire from running several years ago. They ran their final Boston Marathon together in 2014.

Bryan Lyons, who replaced Dick Hoyt in 2015, died suddenly last year.

WBZ-TV sports director Steve Burton reacted to the news of Dick Hoyt’s death.

“He was such an inspiration to so many runners,” Burton said.

Over his decades of running, Dick Hoyt participated in 72 marathons and ran 257 triathlons.

“He was a man of steel,” Burton said. “Even though he was sick, he never got down. He would look to his son Rick, and Rick was his inspiration. Every time it was a struggle, he would turn to his son Rick and he would just lift him up.”

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he is “deeply saddened” by Hoyt’s death.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker called Dick an “iconic part of the Boston Marathon for decades”.

Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray called Dick Hoyt a friend for more than 40 years.

“I don’t look at many people on this planet quite this way, but I always had this impression that Dick and Rick Hoyt were invincible. That nothing was going to take them down, and they showed that for the last 40 years,” McGillivray said.

Along with his son Rick, Dick had two other sons – Russ and Rob. Russ spoke with WBZ-TV on Wednesday about his father.

“My father would say all the time. ‘Rick’s the heart and I’m the body.’ And it was just true. He did what he did because Rick inspired him to do it,” Russ said. “To be able to say that your dad is your hero…he is.”

The Boston Athletic Association issued this statement Wednesday afternoon:

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. 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.

As a leader of Team Hoyt, Dick Hoyt and his son Rick quickly became Boston Marathon legends after their first run in 1980. Pushing Rick in a custom racing chair, Dick and Rick completed 32 Boston Marathons together, including a final finish in 2014. The pair’s bond and presence throughout the course became synonymous with the Boston Marathon. Team Hoyt’s 1,000th race together came at the 2009 Boston Marathon, and in 2015 Dick served as Grand Marshal of the race in recognition of his impact on the event and Para Athlete community.

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.

CBSBoston.com Staff