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Prison inmate helps Utah woman finish marathon

When prison inmate Fidel Ybarra saw Carrie Kelley struggling at the Beaver Canyon Marathon, he ran with her for the next 35K

Photo by: Facebook/Elizabeth Lizz Ashby

At the Beaver Canyon Marathon in Beaver, Utah, on October 3, Carrie Kelley started the race looking to finish her 68th marathon. A little later, though, not even 7K into the run, she had already hit a wall, and she was thinking about dropping out. Before she could act on this impulse to quit, a man named Fidel Ybarra appeared from behind Kelley and started to run with her. Ybarra is a prison inmate who was helping out at the marathon that day, and although he was hardly dressed for a run (he was wearing work boots and shorts over long johns), he ran with Kelley for the next 35K. 

Amy Albrecht, the race director for the Beaver Canyon Marathon, spoke with KSL.com after the race, and she said there were several inmates from the Utah Department of Corrections on-site that day to help set up ahead of the run and tear down after. Ybarra had been following behind the racers to clean up the course with the rest of the crew, and his decision to run with Kelley—who was in last place and clearly struggling—surprised everyone. 

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“Watching the two of them cross together had everyone in tears,” Albrecht said. “It was so moving, and one of the neatest things I have ever seen. I don’t know his past mistakes, but what he did showed his true character.” Albrecht added that the Beaver Canyon team found the address of Ybarra’s mother, and they’ve sent her his medal. “He deserves it for what he did that day.”

After the run, Kelley took to Facebook to explain what had happened during the race. “Without Fidel’s help, I wouldn’t have been able to finish,” she wrote. “I was that broken and injured.” Kelley wrote that Ybarra “isn’t a runner, but he’s one of those people who is a true athlete,” noting that he had no prior training ahead of his spontaneous 22-mile run. “I saw how much pain Fidel was in, but he wouldn’t quit because he didn’t want me to run alone.”

Kelley and Ybarra approach the finish line of the Beaver Canyon Marathon. Photo: Facebook/Elizabeth Lizz Ashby

The communications director of the Utah Department of Corrections released a statement from Ybarra, who wrote, “While walking and talking with the deputy that was supervising us, a name came up of a dedicated marathon runner, Carrie Kelley, who was running in the Beaver Canyon Marathon, but due to some injuries she was having a hard time running. She was the last runner and we eventually caught up to her. I am not sure why I began running with her, but I think maybe I saw a little bit of myself and other inmates in the situation. We are normally left at the back and left to our own devices. I could tell how much she enjoyed running, and I felt like I could not let her finish the marathon alone.”

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Ybarra said he didn’t plan on running the rest of the marathon with Kelley, but 35K after joining her, he was crossing the finish line by her side. “I feel like by the end I was in more pain than her,” he wrote, “but the feeling of accomplishment was more than I can describe in words.” Kelley and Ybarra finished the race in 6:36:23.