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Michelle Turnberg, Published May 19 2012

Turnberg: Sometimes the solution to a challenge is crossing the finish line

I had the honor of being the keynote speaker and spending last Monday evening with more than 200 GoFarCharity Team members at their annual pre-marathon banquet.

These are the folks who not only run or walk one of the events in the marathon but also raise money for local charities.

You may have spotted some of them in the races this weekend. Many have shirts that sport the names of their favored charities, including the American Cancer Society, On Angels Wings and the American Heart Association, to name a few.

It is both humbling and inspirational to see so many people help others reach their full potential in life.

In my speech, I talked about one of the greatest love stories I have ever heard: the story of a father who climbs mountains and runs to the ends of the earth and back to give his son a better life, a life that transcends the limitations of his body …

His son’s birth was a hard delivery.

The umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck.

Doctors told Dick and Judy Hoyt that their son had cerebral palsy and would never walk or talk. They advised them to put their newborn in an institution because he would be a vegetable for the rest of his life.

Dick and Judy decided they would raise their new son, Rick, just as they raised their other two boys.

Little Rick swam with the other kids, played in sand at the beach, joined in street hockey from his wheelchair, laughed and even managed to get in trouble – just like the other kids.

While in high school, Rick learned of a 5-mile charity road race for a paralyzed teenager. He told his dad he wanted to do something for the boy and let him know that life goes on, even when you have a disability.

Dick wasn’t a runner, but his son’s request seemed to be a father’s call to action. So they ran that race together, Dick pushing Rick in his wheelchair, Rick smiling the whole way. When it was over Rick told his dad: “When I’m running, I feel like my disability disappears.”

That was all Dick needed to hear.

Today they have completed nearly a thousand races, 70 marathons, including more than 30 Boston Marathons and triathlons.

Their exploits include six Ironmans, considered by many to be the ultimate test of strength and endurance. In the Ironman race Dick pulls, carries or pushes Rick’s 110-pound body over the course of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run.

The next time you are working out, and your legs are sore and your lungs heavy – I challenge you to think about Dick and Rick Hoyt.

Think about a man who was never a runner, and how he completes marathons and Ironmans while carrying his son. Think about a man who is willing to put himself through so much agony so his son might experience the thrill of the race.

I love the atmosphere at a marathon because it’s not about who wins or loses. It’s about having the courage to get to the starting line and the determination to finish.

Thank you, charity runners, for your selfless giving and hard word to benefit others. If it was easy to raise money and train for a marathon, everyone would do it.

Michelle Turnberg writes a weekly column for SheSays.