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  After 'worst' year, Hoyts in running

By Peter DeMarco, Globe Correspondent, 4/15/2004

Last year was supposed to have been Dick and Rick Hoyt's 23d straight Boston Marathon. But the father-son duo ran into an unexpected problem: Just a few months before the big race, while running one day, Dick had a heart attack.

"My main artery was 95 percent blocked. It was in the genes," said the elder Hoyt, who has completed hundreds of road races while pushing Rick, who has cerebral palsy, in a wheelchair. "They said, `Dick, if you weren't in shape, you would have died 15 years ago.' They couldn't believe it because we'd run five other races after [the attack]."

Dick Hoyt has long since recovered from his health scare -- he and Rick were back out running six weeks after his angioplasty surgery last year. On Monday, they plan to take their customary spot at the Marathon's starting line in Hopkinton, and embark on a new streak.

"We feel we're young enough now where we can start another this year," said Hoyt, 63.

Unlike in recent years, the Hoyts will no longer be wearing Fleet Bank's logo, as the company, citing cutbacks, ended its sponsorship of "Team Hoyt" in January 2003.

As if Fleet's decision and Dick's heart attack weren't enough bad news, last September the Hoyts crashed their bike so hard in the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon that Rick had to go to the emergency room for stitches above his right eye.

Their specially designed bicycle, in which Rick, 42, sits up front, was also badly damaged in the crash.

"Last year was probably the worst year of our lives," Dick Hoyt said.

Fortunately, 2004 has been far better.

Celebrex arthritis medicine signed on as the Hoyts' new major sponsor and is providing even more support than Fleet did. (Poland Springs and Saucony running shoes also donate their products.)

Dick Hoyt said his new heart medication is working great. Meanwhile, he and Rick are running so well -- they hope to tackle 50 races this year -- they might just better their last Boston time.

"It was very tough last year because we went to the starting line [to see the race]. It was very difficult for Rick just to sit there," Dick Hoyt said. "I can tell you he's really looking forward to it this year. We wouldn't miss it."

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