Dubbed “father of the century” by admirers, devoted dad Rick van Beek completed a triathlon Sunday in which he carried his 13-year-old daughter, Maddy, who has cerebral palsy.
But this was hardly the first event for the father and daughter.
This weekend's 0.3-mile swim, 12.4-mile bike ride, and the 3.1-mile run was one of more than 70 events van Beek already competed in for what he refers to as “Team Maddy.”
To finish the race with his daughter, van Beek tugged Maddy through the swim portion on a kayak, pulled her behind him in a cart while he cycled, and ran the final stretch pushing Maddy in a 3-wheeled buggy. van Beek told the Midland Daily News that he brings Maddy along on his races because she loves being outside.
“She functions like a three-month-old, and one of the very few things that we know she enjoys is being outside, being in the water, feeling the breeze in her hair and in her face,” van Beek says of his daughter, who was diagnosed with the disease at just two months old. Beek told Fox 17 of her diagnoses, “It was one of the worst days of our lives. Everybody prays that their children are healthy and for eight years I still wished that she had been a healthy child, but if she wouldn’t have been like she is then we wouldn’t be the people that we are today.”
van Beek said after watching his daughter being pushed in the Grand Rapids Marathon, “To see her being so happy and enjoying every bump in the road was more than I could handle, my emotions took over.” He vowed to become a better person, giving up his tobacco habit and raising money for various charities through his races.
van Beek wrote on his blog that it’s this emotion which “drives me or inspires me to do the things that I do. Call it inspiration, call it motivation, call it whatever you want, I call it LOVE. That will never fade…She is my heart and I am her legs, though someday she might not physically be able to be there with me, she will always be in my heart, quietly cheering me on.”