It is not uncommon for siblings to come back together at their parents' house or some other central location and relive fond memories.

These usually are shared during quieter times when they can just enjoy each other's company. For Paul and Peter Derby this kind of scenario played out over coffee one day two years ago. While the topics of discussion varied, it got both men thinking.

Like many adult siblings, the daily grind of life had taken its toll on their relationship and caused them to drift apart. It happens. Both men acknowledged it, and both men decided right there they wanted to do something about it.

"He mentioned we had drifted apart during our adult lives and in our relationship. I agreed with him because it had," Paul said. "He wanted to change that."

Although Peter recalled the discussion, he also said it got him thinking about a gift he could give his older brother.

He said it is not uncommon to think about gifts and what to get a friend or family member. With Halloween nearly here, that time again is quickly approaching where gift giving will again take place. As adults, Peter said the meaning and thought that had once gone into finding gifts gets lost along the way.

"You ask them what they want. You think about the gifts you can give, and they become whatever, a book or a shirt," he said. "I thought about what I could give to Paul."

It was at that point that Peter recalled asking his older brother questions back when he was in his 20s about running. The Derby family has a long line of runners. Peter did, as well as their other brothers Scott and Sean. They all had some level of success, but Sean was the most successful runner on the Cadillac cross country team, according to Peter.

Paul, however, wasn't able to run. Paul was born with Spina Bifida.

"I asked him when I was in my 20s about running. All of my brothers run, and Paul was the manager of the cross country team. He was supportive and optimistic, but I never thought about it as a kid," Peter said. "I asked him about what it was like to watch us, and he said, 'It sucked.'"

Peter said that statement by his brother hit him, hard.

He never thought about how hard it must be in a family of runners to not be able to participate. Yet, Paul was positive. Paul cheered. Paul was supportive throughout it all. That's when Peter started to think.

He could give him a co-commitment to train for a marathon. While Paul wouldn't be running, they approached their parents to see if they could use some money from their grandparents' trust to purchase a hand bike. Paul would train and use that as his means to complete the marathon. A hand-bike is exactly what it sounds like. It is a three-wheeled, self-propelled vehicle that is powered with the user's arms rather than their legs.

"This thing came from the idea, he is one brother I could never run with. He never got to do some of the things that are so pivotal like setting goals and accomplishing them," Peter said. "Being a runner and a successful runner is a gift that keeps on giving."

Once the challenge was laid out, the two brothers started the training process of doing a marathon.

Paul said the idea was they would do the marathon together. So the training began in August 2018. The following year the training continued, and it wasn't until Christmas 2019 the brothers agreed they would sign up for the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon. During the marathon, runners cross the Ambassador Bridge to Canada and return to the U.S. through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. The route also travels through some of Detroit's historic neighborhoods, Belle Isle and the RiverWalk along the Detroit River. It was set to happen on Oct. 18.

While the brothers were excited about having their goal and a date, plans changed due to COVID-19.

"Every marathon was either being canceled or going virtual, and we chose to defer our registration to the Detroit marathon until next year. But, we decided to do our own," Paul said. "We continued to train. We agreed on a date, which was Oct. 18. I rode, and he ran."

Paul said his training had him doing between 25-60 miles a week and included doing some of the course that a team of family friends, including former Cadillac cross country coach Dave Foley, charted. On Oct. 3, Paul even did a time trial of the full marathon, which he completed in just over three hours.

Peter said when it came to training, Paul came at it like a lion. With this being his brother's first marathon, Peter said he thought it would be a "stroll in the park." At no point did he feel his brother would be close to challenging his time. At a 5K event last year, Peter said Paul was doing 10-minute miles.

"My family has been running forever. This was a David and Goliath situation. It was supposed to be an easy win," Peter said.

Although they were not competing in the same state, they were competing at the same time. As they both crossed the finish line, both brothers instantly started to think about their sibling and if they had finished.

Peter said the sentiment of what they were doing was meaningful to his brother, but he also said Paul is "an incredible trash talker." He knew if Paul was to beat his time, the trash-talking would never end for the rest of their lives.

Lucky for Peter, he did beat his brother but only by 22 seconds. Once both brothers found out, one felt relief while the other was looking for a rematch. Paul said he finished with a time of 2:53.13.

"I was joking around with a friend, and I told him he has granted me a rematch. He beat me by 22 seconds. We were 800 miles apart, and he beat me by 22 seconds. His weather was a lot nicer," Paul said.

Although the exact place for the rematch has yet to be determined, both brothers are hopeful that whenever it happens, it can be together. It also is not lost on Paul that what he accomplished is something motivational.

He said anyone who thinks doing something similar is out of the question because they have a disability like him, are overweight, or afraid, he is proof they can do it. Spina Bifida has been a part of his life since birth. It has made virtually everything difficult for him. As a result, doing this marathon was extremely important to Paul. He said he not only was doing it for himself but also for his family.

"What I would say to someone is not to be afraid or not to think they can't do it," Paul said. "There was never a time that did. I wouldn't be where I am if I ever said that or thought that. 'I can't' are two words that never have been in my vocabulary."

Peter said the training and the day of the marathon was a fun thing for the entire family. It has had unintended benefits in that regard. He also said he knew he couldn't give his brother his legs back, but running the marathon with him in this way would make the best of the situation. He knows if roles were reversed his big brother would have done the same for him.

"Paul is a guy who has this crazy optimism even after all the things he has gone through," Peter said. "I quite frankly don't understand it." 

Cadillac News