Monday, February 19, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
One day last March, Maywood police officer Aaron Peppers, 50, woke up one morning in Dallas, Tex., to run a half-marathon, took a shower, and hopped on a plane to Mexico City, Mexico for another race that night.
Some months later, Peppers was in Shenzhen, China.
“I ran my race, finished, took a shower, got on a plane and 16 hours later was in Los Angeles to run a half-marathon there,” the Maywood native said during a recent phone interview.
Peppers participates in the Rock n’ Roll Marathon Series, which holds running events around the world throughout the year. The events often feature marathons “with bands along the course celebrating each participant,” according to the organization’s website.
Last year, the Maywood native and 24-year veteran of the village’s police force made Rock n’ Roll history when he became the first African American to run all 25 running events in the series — which took him to places like New Orleans, Nashville, Brooklyn, Liverpool, Montreal, Dublin and Madrid.
Aaron Peppers during a Rock n’ Roll Marathon in Indianapolis. | Submitted
Peppers had already distinguished himself in 2016, when he ran the 15 races necessary to make the Rock n’ Roll’s Hall of Fame.
And as if running, literally, across the globe isn’t enough, Peppers juggles a full-time job, master’s degree and personal trainer certification studies, substitute teaching duties at District 209 and the demands of family life. How does he do it?
“My wife [Shawn] is serious about her nutrition, so I eat balanced meals,” he said. “I don’t eat a lot. I don’t eat fast food. And I just have an unbelievable work ethic that carries over into all aspects of my life. That’s just the type of person I am.”
Peppers leans in as his wife, Shawn, puts one of his countless marathon medals on his neck. | Shanel Romain/VFP
Peppers, the former head varsity football coach at Proviso East, said that he tried instilling that work ethic in his players, as well. What fuels that drive, he added, is the level of commitment and endurance he often sees while traveling the country for marathons.
“In San Diego, last year, I’d just ran a 5K and my buddy and I saw this lady jogging with an amputated leg,” he recalled. “I stopped her and said, ‘I have to ask, what happened? She said she was a Marine and she lost her leg in active duty. I said, ‘God bless you and I appreciate you.’ I told my friend that it’s stuff like that that keeps me going.
“We cry and whine about what we don’t have, but this lady had one leg,” Peppers added. “One marathon I was running in Nashville, there was this blind lady running with her friend, who was guiding her. She was running not even knowing her next step. We can’t complain.”
Peppers poses in his home with his many medals and his two grandsons. | Shanel Romain/VFP
Peppers said that he’s coming up on the end of his long career in policing. He hopes to teach criminal studies at the collegiate level. His advice to young, up-and-coming people in law enforcement? Do it for the right reasons.
“I love helping people,” he said. “You always have to remember why you became a cop and it’s to help people. You’ve got to understand that the star is a symbol of peace. Use your platform for that.”
The remnants of Peppers’ running success are all over his Maywood home, even on the hardwood floors. | Shanel Romain/VFP
Another important source of his zeal for life, Peppers said, were the many conversations he had over the years with his neighbor, Wash Wesley — the Maywood man widely considered to have been the state’s oldest resident when he died in 2015 at 112 years old. Wesley was a deacon at his Maywood church who drove long after he turned 100.
Peppers with his Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame medal. | Shanel Romain/VFP
“We used to have conversations and he probably never knew just how those conversations inspired me,” Peppers said. “Just the little things he said. Every day, he got up and he wanted to see life. A lot of people take that for granted. It’s a blessing to wake up every day. We might as well make it fun.” VFP
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