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Commentary: The most admirable athlete you've never heard of

Dick Hoyt may be the most admirable athlete you've never heard of.

Today, he'll run his 32nd and final Boston Marathon.

Hoyt is 73 years old.

Hoyt began running in 1977. The 2009 Boston Marathon marked his 1000th race.

In 1992, Hoyt completed a 3,735 mile run across the United States, completing his trans-continental trek in 45 days.

Hoyt has completed six Ironman triathlons.

He has done all of this with his son in tow, literally.

Rick Hoyt, Dick's son, was born in 1962, and he was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy.

In 1977, Rick asked Dick to participate in a five-mile benefit race. Dick, though not at all a long-distance runner, agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair. The pair finished the race, finishing in second-to-last place. Afterward, Rick told Dick that "when I'm running, it feels like I'm not handicapped." And so it began.

For the next three-and-a-half decades, Dick ran, swam and biked for his son - with his son. In the Ironman triathlons, Dick would literally tow Rick in a boat and in a bicycle built for two and push him in a specially-designed racing-inspired chair. Inspired undoubtedly being the operative word!

Fast-forward 36 years and 30 Boston Marathons. Dick and Rick Hoyt, better known as "Team Hoyt," were one mile from the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, which they had announced would be their swan song and proverbial last lap around Boston's marathon course. A statue had been erected and dedicated in their honor in front of Center School in Hopkinton near the race's starting line, a lasting tribute to an admirable and inspirational Team.

Then, well-documented, terror-driven tragedy struck.

Team Hoyt knew what they had to do next. Dick Hoyt is tired. He's admittedly old, sore and weary. But he and Rick signed-on for an encore, one more go 'round,' one more Boston Marathon.

Team Hoyt agreed to become the face of Boston's redemption song, its resiliency and its strength. Twenty-six-point-two miles more.

Borrowing from Ruth Smeltzer, John Wooden famously remarked that "you can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you."

Dick Hoyt has lived a lot of perfect days, no fewer than 1000 and counting.

And while it takes a special person to run a marathon, Hoyt may be the most special among the runners today in Boston.

Rick Hoyt was once asked if there was one thing that he could give his father what that one thing would be. His response, "The thing I'd most like is for my dad to sit in the chair and I would push him for once."

Rick Hoyt wasn't a runner 37 years ago. And if you asked him, he'd probably tell you he's still not much of a runner today. But he's a hell of a dad and the type of athlete whose character, determination, sacrifice and devotion are genuinely praiseworthy and owing of our admiration.

There is an outdated but popular series of children's books featuring the characters Dick and Jane. These simple children's books were designed to help children to learn to read. Children were invited to "read" and to "have fun" with Dick and Jane, to do things like "see Dick run". In the 1980s, these children's figures were adapted to kitschy stick-figure campaigns, warning teens and adults alike against things like drinking and driving.

Today, many will literally see Dick run around Boston; pushing Rick, continuing to help Rick, now in his 50s, to feel freed from his physical handicap.

Today, Team Hoyt will run its last Boston Marathon.

Today, you should pay-forward Dick Hoyt's selflessness.

You don't have to run 26.2 miles. You can simply hold a door. Buy someone lunch. Listen to and encourage a friend. Smile at someone.

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