Okay, so maybe it’s not true that the family that runs together stays together. But running could make it closer.
That seems to be the case with John Peterson, a teacher at the Page School of West Newbury, and his sister, Newburyport Nock Middle School teacher Beth Dollas of Amesbury.
Three years ago, their brother David of Wakefield urged them to join him running the Chicago Marathon. Both Dollas and Peterson had been running shorter races and had talked about one day running a marathon, so they readily agreed.
And since then, Peterson and Dollas have become hooked on the marathon — as an unofficial team. They’ve gone to three other marathons together (San Francisco, Boston and the Marine Corps in Washington, D.C.) and they’re both currently training for this year’s Boston Marathon.
Between marathons, they’re often doing their long weekend runs together and either comparing notes on training or speculating on where to head for their next marathon.
What it means is that while many brothers and sisters tend to grow apart as they grow older and their interests diverge, the opposite is true for Dollas and Peterson.
“I think we’ve been pretty close all along nut this has definitely brought us together,” said Dollas who, at 37, is two years younger than Peterson. “There’s a real connection now. We’re always asking about each other’s training.”
After running Chicago, Peterson has only run one marathon without his sister, in Pittsburgh two years ago.
“It’s been a bonding experience for both of us,” said Peterson. “I feel closer to her now than I ever had.
“When we are training, those weekend long runs go by quickly when we are running together and it’s our chance to catch up with each other.
“It’s been great. When I did Pittsburgh without her, there was definitely something missing.”
More of a basketball player and traditional sports guy, Peterson was the last to get into running and he’s not quite as fast as his sister, usually finishing about 25-30 minutes behind for a marathon.
Dollas, in fact, is more than a respectable runner. A field hockey, basketball and softball player at Amesbury High, she ran an impressive 3:07.47 at the Marine Corps Marathon last year and a solid 3:19.55 at Boston.
Because of those times, Dollas is once again an official qualifier for Boston whereas Peterson is running for GoKids, an organization that promotes good nutrition and battles obesity in children.
Thus, while Dollas can focus on her training, Peterson must spend a lot of his time fundraising. With two months to go, he’s still considerably short of the amount needed, but he’s not complaining.
“She has great times and, yes, I have to do the fundraising, but the money is going to a great cause,” said Peterson. “That part is gratifying to me as well.
“I’m not envious (of Dollas). I’m proud of what she has done and accomplished. She has amazing times ... I know I’m not going to beat her and I’m fine with it.”
In fact, like his sister, Peterson has gotten progressively faster in his marathon running and, in part, he attributes the improvement to their connection.
“I think we push each other,” he said. “(At the Marine Corps Marathon), I felt good that I could run side be side with her for the first nine miles of the race.”
Overall, for a brother and sister who had no interest in distance running as youngsters, it’s been an enjoyable journey together and one that doesn’t appear anywhere near over.
“I never thought either Beth or I would have taken this as far as we have and be working on number six (marathons),” said Peterson. “If you had told me four years ago this is what we would be doing, I would have laughed.
“We have found something that gives us discipline, fitness and most importantly enjoyment. I think our plan is to keep running as long as we can. ... We are already talking about which marathon we want to pursue for the fall.”
Getting better, together Following are the successive results of the four marathons John Peterson and his sister Beth Dollas have run together. Peterson also ran the Pittsburgh Marathon on his own John Peterson Beth Dollas Chicago -- 4:00 Chicago -- 3:23 San Francisco -- 3:49 San Francisco -- 3:15 Boston -- 3:47 Boston -- 3:19 Marine Corps -- 3:27 Marine Corps -- 3:07