Their busy lives have kept them running in different directions for years, so the Shock sisters, all six of them, have decided to run together -- in local road races.
At a 5K run in Patterson Park this weekend, sponsored by the State's Attorney's Office and Baltimore Child Abuse Center, the sisters are planning to be together again on the race course, thanks to a combination of personal motivation and good-natured sibling rivalry.
"There's always the goal of beating my sisters," says Peggy Hughes, 44, of East Baltimore.
"We all compete with each other," agrees Jane Shock, 43, of Belair-Edison. But more important, she adds, "we encourage each other."
While most of the sisters were already exercising on their own, it took a couple of years for them to convince each other to try the 3.1-mile 5K road races.
A big incentive was the opportunity to do something fun together. When they were younger, they socialized at nightclubs and other events, but with family and work obligations they find it hard to get together now. The races are a fun, healthy way to be with each other.
Even though they run at different paces, the sisters like to warm up and start together as well as celebrate together afterward.
Jane, a personnel specialist at the federal Health Care Financing Administration in Baltimore, was the first to try racing. She says signing up for a race makes her more motivated to exercise.
"It's just more fun to work toward something," says Jane, who also hikes and lifts weights.
She asked her sister, Regina Shock, 42, of Mount Washington, to join her for the St. Patrick's Day 5K in 1999. Regina started an exercise program, including running, aerobics, swimming and weight training, 10 years ago after she developed diabetes while pregnant with her daughter.
Regina, an information technology program manager for Maryland's Department of Public Safety and Correction Services, says her sisters keep her training and going to races.
"It definitely makes a difference," she says. "I never would have joined the race without Jane."
By the following November, the two had persuaded their sister, Mary Shock, 46, of Cedarcroft, to come along for the 1999 Turkey Trot. That was after Mary, a state administrative judge, had quit smoking and taken up aerobics. Since last May, she has lost 25 pounds.
"It's fun to go together with them," Mary says, adding that her goal is to run an entire race without walking.
A year passed before two more sisters agreed to run in the Thanksgiving 2000 Turkey Trot.
Peggy, an accountant for the Maryland Department of Human Resources, quit smoking in October. She called her performance in this year's St. Patrick's Day race "humbling," but her sisters encourage her, and she plans to keep going to races with them.
Nan Costa, 37, of Cumberland, is the youngest sister. In addition to working part-time for an insurance agency and volunteering, she runs twice a week and uses a treadmill and exercise bike.
Even so, she found the St. Patrick's Day 5K course a challenge. "I had to walk a few times," she says.
This past St. Patrick's Day was also the first time sister Patsy Jarkowski, 45, of Guilford, completed the group.
"I don't like to be left out," says the human resources administrator for the Maryland Department of Budget and Management. In the previous year, Patsy, too, lost 25 pounds and started exercising more.
"I was frankly surprised at how well I did" in the race, she says. "The next day I was feeling pretty good."
The sisters occasionally played sports when they were growing up in Baltimore, but really became interested in exercise in their 30s and 40s.
"You get a different sense of things when you get older," Patsy says. While vanity is one reason to stay in shape, she and her sisters also are more aware of the problems associated with carrying extra weight -- back problems, knee problems and diabetes, to name a few.
Support from their spouses, boyfriends and children helps make running a positive experience, they say.
Peggy's children, ages 12 and 11, influenced her to quit smoking, which helped her to start running. Mary's 18-year-old son encouraged her to quit smoking three years ago and keeps after her to exercise. Patsy recently bought a running stroller for her 4-year-old son and hopes to use her 8-year-old son's Little League practice time as running time for her.
All the sisters say they enjoy having their children at the races to cheer them on.
"We're good role models for our kids," says Jane.