Two weeks ago Elise Fallson shared this picture on Facebook; Team Hoyt. I told her I had the chance to meet Dick Hoyt in Mexico and promised her I would write about that meeting. Father Dragon doesn't take his word lightly.
For those of you who don't know who Dick and Rick Hoyt are, allow me to introduce them to you.
- The Background
"It feels like my disability disappears," Rick told his father. "I felt free for the first time. Can we do it again?"
Ever since, Dick and Rick Hoyt are a living example that limitations only exist when the human being decides to accept them. Team Hoyt has entered marathons and triathlons, including the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
This is a 2.4 miles swim, 112 miles bike, 26.2 miles run competition. In the words of their organizers: "The Championship centers on the dedication and courage exhibited by participants who demonstrate the IRONMAN mantra that “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. ®”/ ....a 140.6-mile journey that presents the ultimate test of body, mind and spirit to earn the title of “IRONMAN.”"
But the trial of body, mind and spirit is not exclusive of the Ironman. Any high performance athlete knows when the body is utterly depleted from energy, the athlete must appeal to what's in his heart and mind to impel himself forward. He must get strength from other source than the muscles in order to cross the Finish line.
- Congress of Heroes - Mexico City
Dick Hoyt's conference was first. A video of Team Hoyt during an Ironman Championship shook the very foundations of every single soul in that room. "It is necessary to train both mind and spirit as hard as the body in order to complete such a competence." The narrator explained. "Those who only train the body find very soon that is not nearly enough."
During the session of questions and answers, I played my part. "Have you ever felt defeated by any obstacle you've met? Ever thought 'this is too much for me. I am not going to make it'?"
"Never." Determination and honesty vibrated in his tone. "We have always crossed the Finish Line in all the races we've entered."
"The video says you must train the body, mind and spirit. Can you tell us what is your mental and spiritual training?"
"I keep my mind focused on my goal. There is no place for defeat. The words 'I can't' don't exist for me and my family. At first they told me my son was a vegetable. I have never seen a tomato with a college degree before. I don't waste time in doubts, or negativity or the fact some people refuse to accept us. In my mind there is only one phrase; 'Yes, I can.' In my heart there is only one feeling; love."
- The Obstacles
- Dick had to endure people accusing him of "exhibiting, using and abusing" his son, out of some twisted need to get famous. They said he was doing all that, not because Rick asked him, but because Dick needed that attention.
- Many organizing committees of marathons and triathlons refused to allow them to compete. Those which allowed them to compete would only do so if Dick entered in Rick's category. Dick had to join a group much younger than him and meet the minimum speed required for that category. They didn't take into consideration Dick was dealing with the weight of both he and his son or Dick's own age. Every demanded requirement was according to Rick's age and weight, as if he alone were the athlete.
- In the Ironman (and all triathlons) Dick pulls his son's boat. For this reason and because the boat would mean an obstacle for other competitors, he was required to be among the last to leave the starting line. I must highlight that there is a limit of time for an athlete to reach the subsequent phase, and that limit is set according to the registered age (remember he was competing in a younger -and faster- category?) Well, if the athlete doesn't get to the next phase within the time limit, he is out.
- They didn't just face the opposition of committees and the critic of public opinion. They also had to face the rejection of some of the athletes. Rudeness, mockery and ostracism; father and son tasted them all. They would hear things like "Step aside. Go home. Shame on you, dragging your son like that! What are you doing here? Why are you doing this to him? Give up, old man!"
Dick Hoyt has two mottos: "Yes, you can" and "Don't Run Alone."
Rick's wish was to continue and so, Dick got on the bike. At first, all his body complained for the renewed effort, but as he warmed up, he found new energy filled his limbs. He arrived last at the next post but was surprised to find he would be allowed to continue. They changed to the wheel chair and he started running. He was behind for many miles. Eventually, he met with the rear of the group and he started passing runners by. Many of those who had mocked them or ignored them were now standing aside to let them pass and they were actually cheering for them.
With renewed enthusiasm, Dick's previous exhaustion was gone and he kept a good pace. Night had fallen upon them and Dick just kept asking his son how he was. Rick would wave his hand in an okay signal. Even though they were last in the group after the incident, delayed for an hour and so and with little chance to make it, they crossed the Finish Line with a 20 minute spare margin. As you can see in the video, Rick is raising his arm in victorious gesture. Dick said he couldn't believe what they had just done.
- Don't Run Alone. You can do it!
When I met Dick Hoyt, he was 67 years old, he still competed in the Ironman, pulling, pushing and carrying his son in his arms. Dick would have never accomplished everything he did in his life, his health and fortitude if his son hadn't been born. He knows it and says his son gave him more than he ever dreamed of.
To me, "Don't run alone" means to look for people to help you make your dream come true. If you find your impulsing force, it will help you to discover what you're made of, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
"Can" is choosing to open your arms wide to life. Choose to fulfill your dreams, no matter how many voices tell you it's impossible. Don't keep all the good you have inside to yourself. Don't prevent yourself from knowing the heights you can reach. Don't accept the negative critiques. Don't accept doubts and limitations set by others. The only one who gets to say how far you can get is yourself!
I believe the most genuine Ironman Championship for anyone is life itself. Focus your mind in crossing the Finish Line along with your son (which can be that dream you carry in your chest just the same). It doesn't matter if other runners pass you by. It doesn't matter if they look at you with disdain and mockery. It doesn't matter if you're criticized or all odds are against you. You are not running alone.
There are people willing to believe in you, if you let them. Focus your mind and spirit on your goals, on victory. Believe in yourself, believe in others, love your goal, breath it, live it! You will be amazed how many "impossible" things you are capable of achieving.
Thanks for your time and may this bit of wisdom stay with you for a long time.