Dad Crosses Marathon Finish Line While Cradling His Baby

And the reason behind why he did it will melt your heart.
ByStephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
Nov 2018

This year’s NYC Marathon took place on Nov. 4 and hosted about 50,000 runners, each with their own personal motivation for partaking in the ambitious running event. For New Hampshire scientist Robby Ketchell, there was only one reason participate in the day’s festivities: His son.

Luckily photographer Elizabeth Griffin, who goes by the Instagram handle @zabelita, helped share Ketchell’s inspiring story. While she was waiting for a friend to cross the finish line, she spotted a sight that took her breath away. Without thinking, she snapped a picture. The photo of a marathon runner holding his baby while crossing the finish line would soon gain online fame, and ultimately help connect Griffin with the the incredible father-son team in the photo.

“Folks, if you could help me find this father carrying his baby across the finish line of the @nycmarathon I’d be most grateful,” Griffin says on Twitter.

Showing the power of social media, it wasn’t long before the photographer was able to track down Ketchell, and with him, the incredible story.

The journey all began when Wyatt, Ketchell’s son, was born with Down syndrome earlier this year. Since then, the father and his wife have been committed to raising awareness on the genetic disorder. Ketchell began his fundraising eneavers back in July, when he posted on his CrowdRise page with a marathon goal to raise $3,210 for LuMind Down syndrome research. It was a symbolic goal, taking inspiration from those with the disorder who have three copies of chromosome 21.

The dad raised nearly $12,000—far exceeding his fundraising expectations.

He also set a goal to run the marathon in a meaningful three hours and 21 minutes, he explains in a post on Runner’s World. He knew this would be a tough time to meet, since he was spending most of his days at the hospital with Wyatt, and couldn’t train as much as he would have liked.

“The main thing I want to do is to remind people that it’s not about setting limits on yourself—it’s about pushing past them. That’s a big thing for anyone who has Down syndrome,” he says.

In the end, Ketchell wasn’t able to meet his record. But by falling behind, he realized one thing he now could do. Without the pressure of a distinct end time hanging over his head, he was able to stop and meet his wife right before the end of the race, taking Wyatt with him across the finish line.

“If your dreams aren’t crazy, they aren’t worth living,” the dad says in a video he recorded of himself from the marathon. “[I] crashed and burned at [mile] 20, but we’ll finish what we started. I’m coming to grab Wyatt and carry you across the finish line, buddy,”

You can watch the heartwarming moment here, and just try not to tear up (Spoiler: It’s impossible!).

Making the moment even sweeter, he previously decided to put Wyatt’s name on his running bib instead of his own. So when the two crossed the finish line and caught hundreds of bystanders’ attention, it was Wyatt’s name they were chanting.

“I’m not really a crier, but tears were definitely starting to come,’ Ketchell recounts on Runner’s World. Click here to learn more about Ketchell, Wyatt and their journey.

A parent’s love knows no bounds. This year, a mom stole the hearts of millions when she ran the more than 100-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) marathon, stopping along the way to breastfeed her 3-month-old baby.

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