I met Shaun Evans last June at the inaugural Vegan Power 50k. As I held on for the first 2 loops I quickly learned how amazing this man is – not only as a runner but also as a father. I was in awe as he told his story and his plans for the summer of 2015. In 65 days his family will cover 3,205 miles – they started in Washington and will complete their journey in New York City. I am honored to have met him and now I’m even more excited as I watch his family traverse the United States spreading love, hope, and the message of inclusion each and every day. On July 3rd Shamus kicked off the adventure by taking the first steps out of the Pacific Ocean.
The family’s goal is to reach Citi Field in New York on September 1st. I want to share their story with you in case you have not yet heard about the Evans’ family – I invite you to follow along by following their Facebook page and if you are inspired donate to the cause for which they are raising funds, Ainsley’s Angels. Currently they are donating 25 running chariots but the requests keep rolling in! With each chair costing $1,000 any donations will help substantially.
Shaun and his wife Nichole live in upstate NY where they are raising their 2 sons, Shamus (9), and Simon (7). Shamus was born with cerebral palsy and as a result he relies on a wheelchair as his primary means of mobility. Shaun has been an avid runner and in 2013, with the help of Ainsley’s Angels, Shamus was able to obtain a running chariot that enabled him to participate in running events and races with his dad. That August the duo competed in a 6 hour ultra marathon completing 45 miles. Together they won this event – Shamus pulling Shaun along with his enthusiasm. After this event Shamus developed the idea that if he and his dad ran that distance every day of his summer vacation they could make it about 3,000 miles. After his parents helped him calculate this distance he asked how far 3,000 miles could take them. Shaun and Nichole showed him a map of the USA and they could see the “lightbulb moment”. Shamus’ mission to run across the USA was born. To further his idea, Shamus said to his dad “when we run across the country, we should donate chariots to other kids like me so they can feel what it is like to run and know what it’s like to have the wind in their faces.” Shaun was sold and the training and planning began!
Last night ended in Midland, SD and today they will run to Presho, SD where their total mileage will be about 1600 in 28 days! Their next chair presentation will be in Sioux Falls, SD on August 3rd with another on August 4th in Worthington, MN. These boys are flying! I had a chance to check in with Shaun and his family to see how their journey is progressing.
You’ve been putting in high mileage daily and looking super-strong – have you encountered any challenges? Running at elevation up to 9,000 feet sapped my energy and I was working to stay hydrated. We have also been running in some hot weather (mid to high 90’s or even 100+) by the time we finish each day so we use lots of sunscreen. I drink nearly a case of water every day! Consuming enough calories has also been challenging at times balancing getting enough fuel and avoiding feeling bloated. Fatigue has also been setting in so when we finish our daily mileage I try to balance getting enough rest with spending some time with the family and occasionally taking in a few sites (Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Lewis and Clark Caverns, Space Needle)
If you hit any tough spots in your day, what helps you get through them? Without a doubt Shamus pulls me through the tough spots. I also have an amazing pit crew in my wife Nichole, Simon, and Shamus who keep me fueled, hydrated and upbeat. Nichole does an amazing job preparing all my food and drinks, taking care of the boys and keeping them entertained (when one isn’t on the road with me in the chair), setting up camp, breaking down camp, etc day after day after day! In addition, I have the kids along the way that are receiving our chair donations to pull me along and inspire me to keep hitting my daily goals of mileage.
What has been the most rewarding part of your run so far? Donating the chairs is what the mission is all about and seeing the joy in the child’s and their family’s faces is the ultimate reward, as is seeing Shamus light up when we get going fast. As far as running rewards, Running up the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming and feeling strong running at 9000’+ I knew then that all of my training, simulating altitude, and putting in tons of miles leading up to this summer had paid off. The view throughout the mountains was incredible!
What are you eating to fuel your runs while on the road? Nichole makes me a lot of shakes. In the beginning I was eating a lot of simple carbs (pretzels, breads, bagels, etc but my mouth was getting sores so we have switched to more liquids. The shakes consist of healthy fats (coconut oil, avocado) with a mix of vegan protein supplements(Vega) vegan Shakeology, and mixes of various fruits and vegetables with almond milk. I have also been fortunate to have LARABAR as a sponsor so I consume bars or Renola pre run, on the run, and post run for good clean fuel.
What has been your favorite food to refuel? I love Peanut butter so I often cover LARABARs in peanut butter and raisins and eat those with my smoothies
I would love to hear from Shamus – what is his favorite part of the journey so far? And is there anything he is looking forward to seeing or doing? Shamus loved visiting the Space Needle in Seattle (He loves going up tall buildings and is the thrill seeker of the family, loves roller coasters, water parks, etc). He also enjoyed visiting Yellowstone, likes running through the little towns, visiting with the people, stopping into restaurants, and telling our story. He also said he loves the chair presentations and giving the chairs as gifts to other kids. He also loved Mt Rushmore.
And Simon sometimes joins you right? What is his favorite part? Simon likes to read on the run (while I run he brings his books. He read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and is now working on the 5th book as well as a biography about Teddy Roosevelt and The Isle of the Lost. He loved visiting Mt Rushmore in South Dakota and the Hot Springs in Wyoming. He and I have seen some great sites while running including an antelope jumping over a 6 foot fence right in front of us…he spotted the antelope as we ran through rural Wyoming, and pointed it out to me, we then watched it jump together.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about children who face mobility challenges? oftentimes people look at Shamus in a wheelchair and immediately jump to the conclusion that he also has cognitive limitations. Sometimes they speak to him like he is a baby. While children with mobility limitations or communication limitations MAY have cognitive impairments it is not always the case. Shamus and lots of other kids out there dream BIG and we aim to help them to achieve those goals and dreams.
Your mission is very clear. With a brief statement, tell me what you would like everyone to learn from your run across the US? Our goal is for individuals with disabilities, physical or otherwise, to be included and involved in life as fully as possible. We aim to provide equipment to individuals to allow them to be active participants in road races, triathlons and other sports. We also are seeking individuals who want to help us spread the mission or provide legs for individuals with disabilities to become Angels with Ainsley’s Angels of America
What an inspiring family and amazing cause! Best of luck as you continue to strengthen your bonds and create memories that will last a lifetime – not just for your family but for the countless lives you are touching along the way!
I look forward to their daily updates to track the progress they are making and to see the children they are presenting chairs to along their route. I know we can all use some positivity and inspiration in our daily news feed! If you wish to follow along here is where you can find them:
To make a donation towards the purchase of a running chariot for a child whose wish is to experience the exhilaration of running, visit their crowdrise site.
#Power2Push #TogetherWeShall #RollWithTheWind #AcrossAmerica #RunAcrossAmerica