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Celebrated Boston Marathon Wheelchair Racer Rick Hoyt Dead at 61

Rick and his father participated in more than 1,000 races together

<p>Rodrique Ngowi/AP</p>

Rodrique Ngowi/AP

Rick Hoyt, a beloved racer whose father would push his wheelchair each year in the Boston Marathon, has died at age 61.

A statement issued by the Hoyt family said, “It is with profound sadness that the Hoyt Family announce the passing of our beloved brother and uncle, Rick Hoyt this morning."

Hoyt's family said he passed away "due to complications with his respiratory system," in the statement.

"As so many knew, Rick along with our father, Dick, were icons in the road race and triathlon worlds for over 40 years and inspired millions of people with disabilities to believe in themselves, set goals and accomplish extraordinary things," the family added.

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<p>Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty </p>

Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty

In a statement, the Boston Athletic Association said, "Rick Hoyt will always be remembered as a Boston Marathon icon and for personifying the 'Yes You Can' mentality that defined Team Hoyt. We are fortunate to have been able to call Rick a friend, mentor, pioneer and Boston Marathon finisher."

The association said Hoyt's legacy will live on through the marathon's annual Rick & Dick Hoyt Award, which is given to "someone who exhibits the spirit of Team Hoyt through advocacy and inclusion."

The father-son duo began racing in 1977, when Hoyt, whose cerebral palsy made him paraplegic, told his father he wanted to participate in a race that would benefit a lacrosse player who was injured in an accident, according to the Hoyt Foundation.

<p>Charles Krupa/AP</p>

Charles Krupa/AP

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They completed all five miles of the race with Dick pushing his son's wheelchair, which became a beloved tradition. Hoyt and his father participated in their first Boston Marathon in 1980 and their last in 2014.

The Hoyt Foundation said that Hoyt once told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.”

<p>Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty</p>

Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty

The team completed more than 1,000 races, including six Ironman competitions, according to the foundation.

The Hoyt family added that the "previously planned" memorial for Dick may be postponed until a later date. "We will be making a decision on whether that will still happen on Saturday," their statement said.

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