Kevin Keys is on his way to the Boston Marathon, a year later than he expected.

Kevin Keys is on his way to the Boston Marathon, a year later than he expected.

In 2009, the Lone Grove resident qualified for the famous race. In addition, he became involved with the planning for the inaugural Arbuckles to Ardmore Race for Mercy, which was set for Mar. 28, 2010.

But the 43-year-old had to put his running bug on the back burner. Keys was diagnosed with testicular cancer in January of 2010. Chemotherapy and survival took precedent.

A little more than a year later, Keys is on track to fulfill his goal of running in the Boston Marathon. He’s cancer free and ready to attack Boston thanks to a medical exemption which granted him another chance at the race after missing out in 2010.

“All the research shows, the healthier you are, the more active, the better you can get through,” said Keys, who had started running about five or six years prior to his diagnosis.

“I didn’t exercise a whole lot during my chemo treatment, but I could walk some. I think it helps you. The healthier you are, the better your prognosis will be.”

Kevin will help his wife, Julie, with the registration for the A2A, but says he may jump in the race if he feels the itch to a couple of days before. Kevin runs about 50 miles a week and has participated in close to 20 marathons.

Last year, when the volunteers of A2A found out Kevin had cancer, they dedicated the race to Keys and his recovery fight.

“We all just vowed that this was exactly why we were doing the A2A, because of people like Kevin and the ones we love,” race director Alison Smalley said. “We dedicated the run to him and the fact that he was such an inspiration, and (Julie) was such an inspiration. Nothing does our hearts better than to have him back on his feet.”

Keys was in chemotherapy for six weeks and started running again in May 2010. After writing a letter to the Boston Marathon, included with a doctor’s note, Keys was granted the second chance at his dream race.

“I still had to re-register and re-sign up, I just didn’t have to re-qualify, which is the hard part,” said Kevin, who qualified for Boston by 25 seconds way back in February of 2009.

Kevin’s not the only runner in his family. Julie was the top area finisher among women in last year’s Bar Nothin’ Marathon, placing 14th. His son, Casey, 10, runs for Lone Grove during the school year and Plainview Track Club in the summer.

Kevin underwent chemotherapy at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center in Oklahoma City, but his family found the A2A cause even more significant after his diagnosis.

“We were lucky enough, with family and teacher support, to be allowed the treatment that was best at that time,” Julie said. “But we realize that a lot of people can’t afford to travel for treatment. So I do think it’s important to support the local medical facility so people don’t feel they have to go up the highway for treatment.

“When it came down for a decision for treatment, we said ‘forget about Boston. If it works for next year, then so be it.’”

It worked out better than the Keys family could have expected. According to Julie, 2011 marks the final year the Boston Marathon will allow medical exemptions of Kevin’s nature. America’s most exclusive race will become even more so in the years to come.

In Little Rock, Ark., on Mar. 6, Kevin will run his first marathon in more than a year. The entire Keys family will accompany Kevin to Boston in April.

Kevin’s hard work on and off the road hasn’t gone to waste.

“We’re going to make this a family event,” Julie said of Boston. “It might be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing.”

Erik K. Horne