COPLEY, Ohio — When Peter Keating took off from the starting line at the Boston Marathon, it was the realization of a dream come true. But he never imagined just how unique his 26.2-mile trek would be.
He was among more than 15,000 runners who raced on Monday after the pandemic forced the event to move from April to October.
A Marine Corps veteran and amputee, Keating started his run just after the professional runners and before the next pack of fast competitors.
"I had six miles all to myself," he said. "I would look forward, I would look backward, and there was no one but me on the road. It was like the race was meant for me."
For the first time in the race's 125-year history, the Boston Athletic Association included a division for para-athletes.
Keating, 31, ran an impressive time of 3:25:02, earning him third place in the division. He was awarded an engraved glass cup, a $500 check, and the Boston Marathon medal coveted by runners.
While the prize money is nice, the pride Keating feels is more important.
"Just to be recognized as an adaptive athlete who can never run as fast as a normal person, so to speak, still to be recognized for their efforts in their own division," he said.
In 2017, Keating, stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, stopped to help another Marine involved in a car crash. Moments later, Keating would become a victim.
"That's when another car came on and hit us straight on," Keating said.
Keating suffered a severe injury to his left leg. After struggling with foot function for a year, he decided to amputate his leg below the knee in 2018.
Over the past three years, he has documented his inspiring progress through videos and his Instagram page.
One video shows him taking his first steps on his prosthetic leg. Others capture Keating brought to tears after finishing runs on his running blade.
"Today was a victory," he said in one of those videos.
Keating wears a sweat sock and liner underneath his 10-pound running blade. To keep the socket from becoming too wet and loose, he changed the sweat sock three times during the Boston Marathon.
He estimates the changes cost him about seven minutes on his race time.
He said that's an example of a struggle he faces as a para-athlete and points out that he's not one to focus on a negative.
"I can run, and I can run just like anybody else," he said.
Keating said his Boston accomplishment is also meaningful because of the bombings near the finish line during the 2013 race. The blasts killed three people, and 17 others lost limbs.
"It means even more to us because many lives were changed that day," he said.
Keating said one of his next goals is to push for a para-athlete division for the marathon in the Olympics. If that happens, Keating believes he could earn a spot on the U.S. team.
In the meantime, he hopes his perseverance and his journey inspire others in the long run.
"For everybody who is out there struggling with something that's physical or invisible disabilities, there is life," he said. "Life doesn't end with an amputation. Life doesn't end with a disability."
This story was originally published by Bob Jones on Scripps station WEWS in Cleveland.