Aaron Peppers isn’t your average substitute teacher.
One day last March, the 50-year-old Maywood police officer, who subs at Proviso East High School, 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,” he 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, Peppers 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.
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, who is also a 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.”
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.