By Dave Dyer
---- — Once a teacher, always a teacher.
And that’s part of the beauty for John Peterson, a sixth-grade teacher at the Page School in West Newbury, as he prepares for next month’s Boston Marathon.
Peterson, a former basketball and baseball player at Amesbury High and a graduate of Merrimack College, first got into running three years ago and, within a year, he got the marathon bug.
Since 2011, he has already run three marathons, starting with Chicago in 2011, followed by Pittsburgh (with a personal-best time of 3:43) and San Francisco.
“I had always done team sports, but I was looking for something else to do and my brother got me into running,” said Peterson. “I really took to it.”
Peterson, 38, likes the structure of running, being outside, the exhilaration of finishing a race, and even a long run, as well as the obvious physical benefits — basically, just about everything.
Jumping right into the marathon distance seemed natural to Peterson and he became so attracted to it that it gave him a side benefit.
“I like to travel and the best part is picking a city and going there,” said Peterson. “It’s a great way to see a part of the country you might not have.”
Of course, Boston isn’t exactly foreign to Peterson; but when his sister, Elizabeth, qualified, she asked if he’d join her. They have run virtually all of their other long races together so he agreed.
But it was too late to qualify for Boston in 2013 and Peterson doubted that he could do it anyway, so he decided to check the opportunities for representing a charity.
As luck would have it, Peterson discovered GoKids Boston, an organization that battles obesity in children, which is something that had bothered him for awhile.
“I’ve seen at school how a lot of kids don’t eat well and don’t make healthy choices,” he said. “Some of them are already overweight. Others aren’t yet, but if they’re not eating well, it will catch up with them.
“This is an opportunity to be a role model and teach about something important while doing what I like to do.”
At the same time, Peterson says he understands and has seen the importance of finding ways to limit the number of hours kids spend in front of computer and video screens, something that also leads to obesity.
By running the marathon and helping kids seek fun and positive ways to increase physical activity, Peterson believes the message will sink through, at least to some, and help fight a problem (childhood obesity) that has more than tripled in the past 30 years.
Of course, Peterson won’t be focused on this while he’s running. He’s hopeful of getting a PR time and he’s training diligently to reach it, getting in the required long runs of over 15 miles and surviving the grueling Boston Prep 16-Miler in Derry back in late January.
“It’s been a rough winter (for training), but I feel like I’m ready,” he says.
Once the start gun goes off in Hopkinton, Peterson will be trying to stay under control, monitor his body, stay at a steady pace and enjoy a sport that seems to just keep getting better.
Whatever the outcome on the course, Peterson is pleased that while running his fourth marathon, he can also educate the kids and parents in the West Newbury community about why staying active, along with good nutrition, is a key component to a person’s overall well-being.
In a way, it’ll be like having the best of both (running and teaching) worlds.
Meet John Peterson Age: 38 Education: Amesbury High School, Merrimack College Profession: Teaches sixth grade at Page School in West Newbury Marathon experience: Ran marathons in Pittsburgh, Chicago and San Francisco Goal for Boston Marathon: Break PR time of 3:43, educate young people on importance of nutrition and exercise