From Ordinary to Extraordinary – What CAN’T You Do?

Written by Charlie

With the recent passing of Dick Hoyt, here is a look at someone who went from ordinary to extraordinary to help motivate you to do more than you think you can!

Last week, a man who had become an inspiration to millions of people passed away at the age of 80 years old. His name was Dick Hoyt and he was part of the Team Hoyt duo that had encouraged so many with their activities together and their “Yes You Can!” motto.

What CAN’T You Do?

One of the things that I have come to enjoy so much about running is hearing the stories of others who had been motivated to lace up their shoes and hit the roads or trails. I love hearing about what motivated them and seeing and hearing about how running helped so many to go from what many considered “ordinary” to becoming truly “extraordinary.”

Dick and Rick Hoyt

Such was the case with Dick Hoyt. He had not been a long-distance runner at all yet when his 15 year-old son Rick (who had been born a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy) told him he wanted to participate in a 5 mile race (to benefit a young man who had been paralyzed in an accident), Dick Hoyt stepped up and said ok and went ahead and pushed his son that day.

They came in next to last that day in 1977 but it was only the start of a journey that would see the dad/son duo finish more than 1,000 races together over the next 35+ years. The motivation for this was when Rick told his father after that 5 mile race that “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not disabled.”

These words move his father and was what saw the both of them in road races – and triathlons – all over. Literally all over as they even made the 3,735 mile trek across the United States back in 1992 on both bicycle and by foot. It took just 45 days. The one race that was their favorite and one they would run together 32 times was the Boston Marathon, a race where they became a fixture and eventually saw a statue of them dedicated.

Amazing Times and Races

It was not just marathons (of which there were 72) but also numerous shorter distances and even 6 Ironman triathlons (a total of 257 triathlons of shorter distances being finished as well). For those not familiar, the Ironman covers distances of 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run. Dick would pull Rick in a boat for the 2.4 mile swim before having him on a special bicycle in the front and then finally pushing him for the marathon distance.

Just doing any of these runs would be amazing but their finish times were just incredible as well. For instance, their best marathon time together was 2 hours, 40 minutes, and 47 seconds at the Marine Corps Marathon in 1992, good enough for 57th place overall. For the Ironman, their best time was 13 hours, 43 minutes, and 37 seconds. Considering that they did this together makes this even more unbelievable. Check out this link for more amazing race stats.

In the words of one of their friends, Boston Marathon director Dave McGillivray “well, you have your secret weapon with you all the time, right in front of you, your inspiration and motivation…he is like a magnet, pulling and pulling you forward. If and when you get tired, there he is, inspiring you, pushing you, cheering you on!” – what he told Dick one time.

If it wasn’t for the inspiration provided by Rick, Dick Hoyt may never have been known as widely as he became known (in spite of retiring as a Lt. Colonel in the Air National Guard). It was the motivation to make Rick feel so good that pushed Dick to cover tens of thousands of miles together. It took him from ordinary to extraordinary.

Other Stories of Inspiration

In the running world, you do not have to look that far or hard to find amazing stories of inspiration birthed by various means of motivation. I once ran in a 50 mile race in the trails and hills outside of Washington, DC. I ended up not having a good day, getting pulled around mile 35 for dehydration. In the van back to the start, I was with another runner who looked incredibly fresh in spite of also covering 35 miles in heat and on somewhat difficult, technical trails.

I asked her what happened to her and she said she felt fine but held up her leg and said it was just that her “leg keeps falling off.” She had been running all through here with a prosthetic leg and it would catch in rocky areas and slip off and she would go down. This happened several times and finally forced her to call it a day. Just amazing!

I saw this again watching the incredibly hot and difficult Badwater ultra marathon in Death Valley. Double amputee Chris Moon finished this grueling 135 mile race with one leg and part of his arm missing, due to a landmine explosion years before. Other amputees have finished this race as well even though they would get blisters on the part of their leg where it was joined with their prosthetic.

No one would blame any of these people one bit for never even attempting to run yet they had taken on incredibly difficult races and distances that even people with both natural legs would never even consider.

I had been inspired by various people’s stories about overcoming to run and this is what pushed me to try running as well, in spite of the fact that I had never run one mile before due to being an asthmatic. But, with doctor approval, I decided to push myself to try after seeing how much so many others had pushed through – and in far worse conditions – to achieve their goals.

Last year, I celebrated running over 25,000 miles in the last 14 years. I had been motivated to begin by the stories of others who pushed on and this has continued to motivate me each and every year to continue. Without pushing ourselves, we will never truly see what we are capable of doing. It is an amazing thing to push yourself past what you think you can do and realize that, in the words of the Hoyts, “Yes You Can!”

Find something to motivate you and get out there and do something that you think you cannot do! It is not just about running, which I have found to be incredibly helpful in constantly pushing me, but finding something that pushes you beyond your self-imposed limits. Who knows – maybe you will motivate someone else along the way!

I am certainly thankful to Team Hoyt and their ability to motivate me and so many others.

Of course, if you have a health condition of any kind, definitely check with your doctor/medical professional to make sure you are able to start whatever you set before you.


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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.