A photographer caught the image of a man crossing the New York City Marathon finish line with a newborn in his arms and the story of how the pair made it there will bring you to tears. Grab your tissues, folks.

Earlier this year, scientist and runner Robby Ketchell, and his wife Marya welcomed their son Wyatt. As Ketchell explained to Runner’s World, Wyatt was born with Down syndrome, and decided to run the New York City Marathon in his honor and to raise funds for other families.

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Some moments rattle your brain to the point that you forget how to do what you’ve been trained to do. While waiting for my extraordinary friend David to cross the finish line of the #NYCMarathon, this beautiful sight happened right in front of me and I was admittedly too stunned (and nearly ugly-crying) to ask for their names. This fella, who I now know is Robby Ketchell (thanks some super-sleuthing by my kindergarten pal, @polly_goes) carried his sleeping baby, Wyatt (@tour_de_wyatt) across the finish line. I posted this photo to Instagram and Twitter looking for the pair, with no idea of the unbelievably inspiring story I would find in locating them. Please read it via the link in my profile and/or go to The Ketchell’s @CrowdRise page (link below). ****THANK YOU @runnersworldmag for the piece, Polly for finding this family, The Ketchells and Wyatt for being who you are, and David (@djevotovsky) for being the absolutely heroic person he is and the reason I was there…the reason I got to witness this beautiful sight (and the even more wonderful sight of you, sir, running). I’m crying for a whole lot of reasons. ❤️ to donate, visit https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/lumind-research-down-syndrome-foundation-nyc-2018/robbyketchell

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“This year has been hard. After Wyatt was born premature, we spent 67 days with him in the NICU. He left the hospital on a feeding tube, and we fight every day to keep him from having to go back on one,” Ketchell said. “There’s so much involved with keeping him healthy—early intervention, physical therapy, occupational therapy. It’s been a tough journey.”

Ketchell came up with the idea of running the marathon in 3 hours and 21 minutes to represent the three copies of Wyatt’s 21st chromosome. His fundraising goal was $3,210, but Ketchell has managed to raise more than $11,000.

As Ketchell explained, he trained hard to prepare himself for a 3 hour and 21 minute marathon, but from the start of the race, things started to go downhill and he realized it would be difficult—if not impossible—to reach his goal. “By mile 8 I knew I was in trouble… From [mile] 17 to 20, I knew it was over, but I just wanted to break myself,” he said.

Ketchell had always planned to carry Wyatt over the finish line, but by the time he reached mile 20 he knew that he would have to choose between carrying him and making his time goal. In the end, he chose to carry his son across the finish line and it was the best choice, “To me, it was almost better than breaking 3:21. I had pushed my limits, which was the point. I couldn’t go any farther. And we got to share the moment of going across the finish line together,” he told Runner’s World.

The crowds of onlookers had been calling out Wyatt’s name throughout the entire race as they cheered Ketchell on because it was his son’s name that he chose to write on his bib instead of his own. As they crossed the finish line together, he told everyone that the baby in his arms was Wyatt.

“Having a son with Down syndrome has changed us in the best way and given us a different perspective on life. The amount of love and connection and the journey we’ve been through is just incredible,” Ketchell says. “I know I’ll come back next year and break 3:21.”

You can follow Wyatt’s story on Marya Ketchell’s Instagram feed @tour_de_wyatt.

—Shahrzad Warkentin

Featured photo: Runner’s World via Instagram

 

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