Both marathon fans and fans simply of the human spirit are more than likely to know the story of Dick and Rick Hoyt. The father/son team, who make their home in scenic Holland, MA, will be running in their 30th Boston Marathon this April.
This, in itself, is a truly amazing accomplishment.
The milestone is made 26.2 times more amazing by the facts that the elder Hoyt, Dick, is 71 years old, and his son, Rick, who will be celebrating his 50th birthday in January, has spent his life in a wheelchair. Rick lives each day as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, the result of oxygen deprivation at birth.
Dick pushes Rick in a wheelchair for each step of the 26.2-mile event to the delight of the millions of adoring fans who know their inspiring lifelong adventure. Their entire story of inspiration can be found on their website at www.teamhoyt.com or on the pages of their best-selling new book, Devoted-The Story of a Father's Love for His Son.
As they do each year, Dick and Rick Hoyt have assembled a team of runners from Australia, Canada and around the country who comprise The Hoyt Foundation 2012 Boston Marathon team.
The team will be running to raise money for the Hoyt Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charity whose purpose is to help integrate disabled people into everyday activities so they may live fruitful and productive lives.
Over the next several months, I will be introducing many members of the 2012 Team Hoyt Boston Marathon Team and sharing their motivating stories and experiences as members of this inspirational group during the continuing series entitled, "Yes, You Can Meet the Team Hoyt 2012 Boston Marathon Team."
"If Dick Hoyt could carry himself and another human body (his son, Rick) across the finish line, then I could certainly attempt to drag my sorry behind across the Boston Marathon finish line at least once.”
Those were the words uttered by Team Hoyt marathon runner Tammy Stapleton when she was initially inspired by father and son Hoyt prior to her 26.2-mile Boston Marathon trek in 2010.
On that occasion, the native of Reading, MA was lacing them up to raise funds for Massachusetts Eye and Ear. This April, Stapleton and her self-proclaimed "sorry behind" will drag themselves across the finish line while raising funds for the Hoyt Foundation.
Stapleton, a wife and mother of three young girls, shares a special bond with the Hoyts and credits them with spurring her interest in running several years ago. Prior to becoming a mother, she worked as a special education teacher and taught children of many different abilities in North Reading, MA, the town where Dick grew up and went to high school and met his late wife, Judy. The two married and, several years later, gave birth to Rick.
In addition to teaching in the town where the Hoyt story began, her experience as a special ed teacher allows her to understand the many challenges that Rick encountered as he and the family fought for him to be included in main stream schools.
"Since my specialty was inclusion it was my privilege to work side by side with some wonderful educators and parents", explains Stapleton, a graduate of Plymouth State College and Salem State Grad School. "It was always my goal to provide the best education to all of my students while building their self-confidence and pride."
She continues, "My passion for running is fairly new, but the interest I have in enriching the lives of the disabled has not only been my livelihood, but has also given more purpose to my life."
That attitude and love of helping the disabled made her a perfect fit when Dick, Rick and Kathy Boyer (Team Hoyt office manager) were selecting the 30 members of this year's historic team.
Like the Hoyts, Stapleton fills her life and the lives of her family with a daily dose of Yes You Can attitude.
"When any of my girls doubt themselves in their ability to do anything, the response they get from me is, 'Yes you can.' I want them to always believe in themselves as much as I do. Anything is possible."
Stapleton injects herself with frequent hits of that same attitude during any challenging training run as she prepares for the mid-April event.
"When I am struggling during a run I repeat those same words, Yes You Can, over and over to get me through the wall, or up off the ground," she laughs.
The 2012 run will be only the second marathon Stapleton has participated in, both being in Boston. Her other long running experiences include the Eastern States 20-miler, The Boston Prep 16-miler and the Timberman 5x sprint triathlon.
She jokes about her personal best, a modest 5:28:29 in her previous jaunt from Hopkinton to Copley in 2010.
"I may not be as quick on my feet as some of the runners from Kenya, but there is something to be said for being in constant motion for over five hours."
Though this will be her first time running as a member of Team Hoyt, Stapleton has often used the duo as inspiration during her long, lonely training runs.
"Because my pace is so slow it takes me longer than most to complete my long runs. There were many times that I doubted myself. I can't tell you how many times that Rick and Dick entered my mind during the toughest parts of my training. I put the song I Can Only Imagine on my iPod and that song inspired me and brought me to tears on many a long run."
Stapleton uses those long training runs as a therapeutic attempt at slowing down the busy life style that accompanies being a wife and mother in the year 2012.
"I think about everything and I think about nothing while I run. I try to leave everything behind on the pavement. It is a stress reliever for me and one of the only times during my week that I get to myself. I love being with just my thoughts."
She also uses her running as a way to include her young family in her activities, and as a way to encourage them to meet life's challenges with a Yes You Can attitude.
"I love how my active lifestyle and running in particular motivates my girls to get involved. They are constantly asking to run races with me. My two oldest actually ran their first kids fun run at the Hoyt 5K in Waltham two years ago. Since then, my daughter, Riley, has run the Krit Classic 5K with me and the entire family ran the Fall Faire 5K in Reading on 9/11, our first race as a family."
"It's important that my girls learn the benefits of living an active lifestyle and the importance of always challenging themselves. I think that them seeing me finish these races teaches them these important life lessons."
Stapleton refrained from speaking about her own heroics to take a moment to thank her husband, Donald for his "endless love and support".
"Without him, running a marathon would be out of the question for me. While I'm out running for hours on end on the weekends, he single-handedly and enthusiastically cares for and entertains our three young daughters - not a simple task, she explains with a clearly evident lump in her throat. "On top of that, he manages to make it to the finish line of all of my training races often standing by the side of the road, with three little ones in tow, camera in hand, in not so desirable weather conditions for hours at a time. He does this while encouraging me and always with a smile on his face."
"Sometimes I feel that his job of fathering our children in my absence is more challenging than even the longest of my training runs! Come April, crossing the finish line and running straight into the arms of my loved ones will be the best finisher's reward of all!"
As Stapleton enters the final few months leading up to the Hoyt's historic 30th Boston Marathon, she finds herself in a state of disbelief that she will be running as a member of this exclusive team.
"I cannot put into words how I am so looking forward to this amazing journey I am about to take," she explains. "I know it will be something that I will never forget and will want to share with everyone. It is truly a blessing that I have been invited to run for Team Hoyt. Thank you to Team Hoyt for believing in me and giving me this opportunity. I am one lucky girl!"
Friends, fans and supporters of Tammy Stapleton can help her achieve her fund raising goal by clicking on her Team Hoyt Crowdrise page. Last year members of the team combined to raise over $120,000 for the Hoyt Foundation.
Todd Civin is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and photos were obtained first-hand.