New York

Dad Running NYC Marathon Crosses Finish Line With Baby in Arms

He'd been running in honor of his 7-month-old son, who has Down syndrome

What to Know

  • A spectator at the NYC Marathon captured a moving photo of a man crossing the finish line with his baby boy in his arms
  • After asking for help finding the man, the stranger learned the man was a father running in honor of his son Wyatt, who has Down syndrome
  • "Having a son with Down syndrome has changed us in the best way and given us a different perspective on life," Robby Ketchell said

A moving photo of a runner crossing the finish line of the New York City Marathon with his baby boy in his arms has revealed the touching story behind the man's motivation to race. 

Spectator Elizabeth Griffin said she was waiting for a friend to cross the finish line at Central Park when she spotted the man running with the sleeping baby boy in his arms. She immediately snapped a photo capturing the sweet moment. 

"I'm not sure too many folks noticed because the baby was so fast asleep, but I've never seen anything like it," Griffin, a photographer at The Dr. Oz Show, told News 4 New York. "He kissed his head and kept running."

"It crushed me and my two friends who saw it. Was so moving!" Griffin wrote, who said she was "dying to find this guy." 

That man turned out to be scientist Robby Ketchell. A longtime marathoner, he's run plenty of races, but this one was special. 

His wife Marya told News 4 that their 7-month-old son Wyatt was born with Down syndrome and that Robby wanted to run the marathon in his honor. 

"We have had a long road," Marya Ketchell wrote in messages with News 4. "Wyatt was born premature and spent the first 67 days of his life in the NICU. He has been through more in his seven months than most people go through in a lifetime, and he will be having open heart surgery in April. He is the best, bravest person we know, and running the marathon for him was so important for our family." 

Ketchell connected with LuMind Research with a goal of raising $3,210 and of breaking a time of 3:21 in honor of Wyatt's three copies of the 21st chromosome. He ended up raising over $11,000. 

As for the marathon time, "running a 3:21 was a big deal," Robby Ketchell told Runner's World in an interview published Tuesday. "I had to really work for it, and as you can see I didn't make it. But I went all-out pushing for it." 

He said he knew he was in trouble by mile 8, and after mile 17, he knew he couldn't make his 3:21 goal. And around mile 20, "I got down on my knees. My knees felt like they were about to break. That was it. I knew I could walk it in at that point, but I had wanted to give it my all." 

"I always wanted to carry Wyatt across the finish line, but I knew if I was going to break 3:21, it was going to be close and there wouldn't be enough time for that," Robby said. "After mile 20, when I was hiking it in, I texted my wife to tell her what happened and that I was coming for Wyatt. She had to fight to get near the finish line because the marathon is so big." 

Marya said she met her husband 400 meters before the finish line and handed him Wyatt so they could cross the finish line together. 

And then, Robby said, "I carried him across the line." 

Robby said that moment was almost better than breaking 3:21. He'd pushed past his limits, which is symbolic of the struggle that those with Down syndrome and their families face.

Strangers around the father and son cried watching them cross the line. Sporting a shirt bearing Wyatt's name, Robby heard spectators screaming his son's name the whole time, making for an emotional event from the beginning. 

Robby is aiming again to break 3:21 next year.

"Having a son with Down syndrome has changed us in the best way and given us a different perspective on life," he told Runner's World. "The amount of love and connection and the journey we’ve been through is just incredible."

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