Friday, June 13, 2014

A Father-Son Marathon Team

Happy Fathers' Day to the dads out there. Best gift is being left alone for the day, but if you get pestered by your kids, deal. If your dad is still alive, see or call him. Grandfather still alive, see or call him. It might be annoying but they did things for you that were annoying to them in the past. A pretty awesome dad is this guy. This father-son duo was a staple at the Boston Marathon for decades. Their story is pretty cool, and if you consider the details shows not just an interesting parent-child dynamic but how times in greater society have changed.

The Hoyts were seen every single Boston Marathon for three decades. Dad ran the 26.2 miles and he would push his disabled son in a special rig in front of him. All 26.2 miles. He ran one armed. He steered the chair. He did not slack. He hauled. I saw him run two years, and when they come your way, everyone is clapping and if they are not on their feet, they rise for this duo. People yell for them. You see that and it hits you that 1. you have no excuses in life, 2. holy shit that old guy is on a mission, and 3. love. You might get the chills. What is amazing is how it almost did not happen. To see how we have changed, when this loving dad approached the Boston Marathon about running with his son they told him no. From the article:

The Hoyts knew they had to keep running. So they had a special racing wheelchair made for Rick, a streamlined three-wheeler that wouldn’t keep veering off course. Then they began doing longer races, and eventually set their sights on the Boston Marathon. Race organizers turned them down at first but finally relented, although the Hoyts got no special treatment. They made us qualify in Rick’s age group,” Dick said, “and that was kind of tough because Rick was in his 20s, I was in my 40s, and they were using Rick’s age for us to qualify. And that meant we had to run a 2:50 — hard!”
 They forced him to qualify with his son's age after rejecting their requests initially. What Massholes! If this happened today, first, he could get a charity spot if he paid to run, but second, they'd give him the thumbs up and help him along. Not 30 years ago. They forced a middle aged man to qualify as a young man since his son who would not run and just be a "passenger" was that age. He did it. Another item of change is how he had to have a special chair rigged decades ago to run with his son, and now SWPLs with mass manufactured jogging strollers show you technological and demand change.

Whether due to older people living longer or just people keeping their disabled children and not sending them to homes there are far more disabled people in our field of vision now. Thirty years ago, my high school did not have any ramps and was a multi-building, open campus so a kid in a wheelchair was out of luck. Football team members took turns carrying a wheelchair bound girl I know up the stairs (liberal narrative busted). By the time I was there in the 'mid-90s, ramps were at every building. Until the 1990s, the Boston Garden had wheelchair bound fans come in through the service entrance like a food deliverer.

I typed no excuses because when you see this old guy run by, you realize that if you have your basic health, what is stopping you from doing anything? This old guy is pushing an adult over 26 miles at a quick clip, messing up his running form by only being able to use one arm to run. I would watch the Marathon when I lived in Natick, so it's early on in the race. Some people have already hit their first wall. Others are moving like well oiled machines, maybe slow, but steadily moving. My wife said out loud about the duo, "How does he do it at that age?". I never answered, but I know now why.

When you find out you're having a kid (assumption: k-selection types reading this), you get pumped. When you find out gender, you do the future "this is their life" (this is what gays have a hard time with; no one assumes their kid will be gay). Gattaca babies will come because everyone wants a perfect kid. They might just say healthy, but they have a laundry list of what they hope for and specific gender birth order as well. That list grows the more people think about life. I have disabled relatives. I know life's cornucopia of obstacles, so all I ever want are healthy babies. Even then, you take what you're dealt.

When Mr. Hoyt found out his son was severely disabled, it had to floor him. If you read the link, the umbilical cord around the neck was usually an extremely bad sign before doctors knew better, so the Hoyts were hit with it from day one. No one prepares you for that. You think you did something wrong and go through the grief or shock acceptance cycle. Those parents have my sympathy, because in the back of their minds is "what happens when I die?". A friend of mine had to console his wife for weeks as their daughter went through testing for cerebral palsy. Turned out she had extremely weak core strength so physical therapy was needed but no CP diagnosis. For a month, he grasped what parents of disabled kids go through all of the time. Imagine you're Dick Hoyt and your kid who can't walk or talk types to you "Dad, when I’m running it feels like my disability disappears", what is going to stop you from training? It was their thing, and his gift to his son. Sure, you are not pushing your kid and running sub-3 hour marathons at middle age. Your dad didn't either. I bet, put in that situation, many of you and your fathers before you would find a way to run together. So call your dad.


Mark Mitchell said...

I worked for a while at college for students with physical and sensory disabilities. One of the things that struck me was that the Dads had either gone AWOL or, much more commonly, fought like bears for the best treatment and support they could get for their kids. I think if you find your child is going to face those kinds of obstacles, just phoning in your role doesn't sit right.

Elliott said...

I was looking into some different resources to write a similar article for a new blog I just started and came across your article. I found it so inspiring and very well written. I'd love for you to check out my post and tell me what you think!