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After her father died, she kept running toward the Boston Marathon dream they shared

Posted at 12:29 AM, Apr 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-11 00:43:59-04

CINCINNATI -- Bill Keating Jr. died in 2017, but his daughter knows he'll be with her on Monday.

When Caroline Keating steps over the finish line of the Boston Marathon, she will be fulfilling a dream he planted in her head decades ago -- and following in his footsteps, as she has countless times since she began to run.

"I remember training with him, riding my bike along his long run with my siblings," she said. "(Later) he came downstairs wearing his famous Boston Marathon finisher's jacket, and he had this classic smirk on his face. He said, ‘I was going to give you my jacket, but you're not fast enough.'"

That comment wasn't goading; it was motivating. Bill Keating Jr. was a lifelong runner and spent much of his adulthood advocating for women's inclusion in athletics, especially at his alma mater, the University of Cincinnati.

According to Caroline, he led the effort to retroactively award female UC athletes varsity letters they had earned before Title IX, and he encouraged his daughters not to set any limits based on their gender.

"He always made sure that me and my sister had equal opportunities growing up," she said.

And he wanted to run the Boston Marathon with Caroline, but his brain cancer diagnosis and rapidly deteriorating health made it impossible. He died in March 2017, shortly before Caroline ran the Flying Pig and managed to qualify for her long-awaited shot in Boston.

"I knew when I crossed the finish line, I just knew I had qualified," she said. "I actually have a finisher's picture of me finishing and stopping my watch, and it's the same picture of him finishing when he qualified. I knew he was with me the whole way."

In honor of her father's drive to make sure women athletes were encouraged to succeed and recognized for their achievements, Caroline will run as a representative of 261 Fearless, a charity that strives to fulfill the same mission all over the world.

"I'm sure it's going to be super emotional," she said. "I'm sure I'm probably going to cry multiple times, but it's just a blessing to finally put a cherry on top of this goal that my dad put in my head."