Eighteen years ago, Kevin Kearney sat on the edge of a roof five stories up watching the finish of the Boston Marathon with his mom as his dad, Steve, made his way to the line.
Last spring, as images of the bombings near the end of the race course went viral, one struck a particular chord with Kearney.
"They were showing pictures of people on a roof top. I was probably in the same block on top of a building," he said. "We were within three blocks of the finish line. We were right where the explosions were. It was sad. People were just there enjoying the marathon. You think about it, they didn't have to be there that day. They chose to be. Why did that have to happen that day?"
Now an accountant in Indianapolis, the 2002 Chesterton graduate and member of the Trojans' semistate championship cross country team, was headed to an office party when he heard of the horrible news. Several months earlier, he had qualified for today's Boston Marathon in Buck's County, Pa., breaking the three-hour mark, about six minutes below the 3:05 cutoff.
"It was a really big goal of mine," Kearney said. "When I finished, I wanted to let him know how happy I was, except I was too tired. I was just leaning on him. My dad had run (Boston) several times and I wanted to get there, to be a part of it. That was a driving factor. He's probably not going to (run) there again and I wanted to get the Kearney name across the finish line again."
This time around, Steve will be the spectator and a proud one at that.
"It's a big step for him to qualify for Boston, not making his high school (top seven) as a senior," said Steve, who will also be meeting up with a couple old Chesterton friends and marathon participants, Hank Nash and Joe Tonner.
After high school, Kevin Kearney took a break from running. A knee injury cut short one comeback, but he returned about six years ago, losing 60 pounds in the process while gaining a renewed sense of direction.
"I felt like it disciplined me. It helped me be more responsible," Kearney said. "When you're doing something every day, you schedule things better. Everything falls into place."
Kearney ran his maiden marathon a few years back at the inaugural Crossroads of Indiana in Lowell and did the Tecumseh Marathon in Bloomington shortly after Buck's County.
"I've never run a big city one. Everything's been small," Kearney said. "It'll be interesting with millions of people on the sides of the streets."
His qualifying time put Kearney in the first wave for Boston, the top 10 percent of runners, but work has truncated his training and thereby tempered his expectations.
"I've been working 65 hours a week the past three months," he said. "There was only Sunday, where I'd get a 15-, 20-mile run in. That's not marathon training. I know I'm not going to be able to race it, so we're just going to run an easy 3:30 pace, enjoy ourselves, take in the sights."
Kearney will run with Andrew Walker, a friend from the IU Running Club who finished in 2:47 last year, well ahead of all the chaos.
"As far as I've gone and everything that's happened, just qualifying, all the hard work, is the reward," Kearney said.
Having turned 30 on Saturday, Kearney hopes to celebrate his birthday — and finish — Monday night.
"If I'm standing," he said.