Editor’s note: Because Purpose2Play has been telling the stories of athletes, coaches, and fans for more than three years, we figure it’s about time to catch up with some of them to find out where they are now. As you’ll see, they’re still inspiring others and making the world a better place to live in.
Where Are They Now? Catching Up with Shaun Evans (“Father Runs From Seattle to NYC While Pushing His Son Who Has Cerebral Palsy” published in 2015)
The last time we talked with 39-year-old father and ultramarathoner Shaun Evans, he had just finished running from Seattle to New York City while pushing his wheelchair-bound 9-year-old son, Shamus, who has cerebral palsy.
The entire Evans family rented an RV and spent an entire summer logging miles and memories all while delivering more than 30 racing wheelchairs to families along the way. Their mission? To spread hope and gift mobility.
“Shamus loves roller coasters and downhill skiing, but he can’t make his body do that. He relies on external forces to make that happen for him whether that be a roller coaster or my legs,” Shaun originally told us. “He loves the sensation, so I have the honor and the privilege to be his legs.”
After they finished the Run Across America, people began asking what their next adventure would be.
“I think Shamus felt like he needed an answer so he said, ‘We should start doing triathlons,'” Shaun said.
And, that’s precisely what they’ve jumped into. But, don’t be fooled by the swimming and cycling. There is another big family trip coming this summer that includes an epic run and donating chairs along the way.
Going The Distance
Shamus, who is now 11, quickly latched onto the idea of doing a triathlon with his dad, so the pair signed up for their first event in 2016 — a Father’s Day sprint triathlon. It was a great day, so Shamus set their sights higher, and their second triathlon really put them to the test.
“The Lake George triathlon offered two distances,” Shaun explained. “An Olympic and a half- Ironman. I asked Shamus which one he wanted to do and his response was, ‘Oh, they don’t have a full-IRONMAN? I guess I’ll do the half.'”
It was a terrific challenge that opened Shaun’s racing world up entirely. He’s been a strong runner his entire life, and he can manage a bike, but the swim portion was what had him worried.
“I never really took formal swim lessons, where I learned how to properly swim freestyle,” he said. “So I went to the local YMCA and worked with one of the lifeguards there. He gave me some tips and then I’d practice every single day. In the beginning, I couldn’t swim the length of the pool without huffing and puffing. I thought to myself, my gosh, I ran 3,200 miles across the country, but I can’t swim 25 yards.”
But, by race day, the duo was ready. Shaun loaded Shamus into an inflatable kayak which was tethered to a harness and they took to the lake for 1.2 miles. Then came the 56-mile bike ride, another unique obstacle.
“The physics of it make it tough,” he explained. “I’m 135 pounds and Shamus is now 125 pounds, and with the weight of the trailer, it’s hard to get the gearing ratio right. So, going up steep hills, it’s hard to get into the right gear.”
They conquered that segment and moved on to Shaun’s bread and butter — the 13.1-mile run.
As a team, they crossed the finish line in agreement that the day went so well that Shamus’s goal of doing a full-IRONMAN will happen within the next few years.
Spreading Hope and Inclusion
In the meantime, the Evans family is gearing up for another adventure. At the Louisiana Marathon in 2015, a race Shaun and Shamus run every year, they were walking along the Mississippi River with the president of Ainsley’s Angels, a Louisiana-based organization whose mission is to ensure everyone can experience endurance events.
“This was just before our Run Across America and Shamus asked him how long the Mississippi River is,” Shaun said. “He came back and said about 2,000 miles, and Shamus says, ‘Oh, we can run that next. We’re training to run over 3,000 miles across the country.'”
So, in July, the family will rent another RV and travel roughly 1,700 miles from Moorhead, MN to Lake Charles, LA with Shaun covering each mile on foot while pushing Shamus.
Along the way, they’ll donate more than 20 racing chariots so others who have disabilities can participate in endurance events, too. This time, the Evans family is armed with both conversion chairs (which convert from cycling chairs to running chairs for triathlons), valued at $4,000-$5,000, and with Freedom Chairs, which are the standard racing chairs used for running, and valued at $1,000.
“How I look at it is Shamus is the athlete, and I get to lend him my legs,” Shaun said. “And I know there are other people out there who think the same thing. They want to lend their legs to their child, or even to their parent.”
As they travel down the Mississippi, they’ll also be spreading the word about Ainsley’s Angels, and how anyone can become an ambassador for the group that’s now in 27 states.
“They don’t have to have a child with a disability. It might be someone who loves running and wants to share that with other people,” Shaun explained.
Since Shaun has started running with Shamus, he’s learned more about the human body and spirit than he ever imagined.
“I’ve learned from Shamus to dream even further than I ever thought possible,” Shaun said. “One goal I always had was to run in the Olympic Trials. I never had any delusions that I would qualify for the Olympic team, but just aiming for the Trials was always the biggest goal I could think of. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would run 3,200 miles from coast to coast. Shamus taught me there’s always something bigger to strive for, and really that anything is possible.”
Because of Shamus, that lesson is spreading outside the family as well. His best friend, Noah, isn’t a runner by any means. But, he came to watch Shaun and Shamus at the Lake George Triathlon. The race started at 5:00 a.m., so Noah woke his whole family up early for the hour-long drive to the start line. What he witnessed inspired him so much that he told everyone he wanted to push Shamus in a race.
“Noah has been training through the fall and winter, and on April 29, he’ll push his buddy in a 5K,” Shaun said. “To me, that brings this full circle for inclusion because this is about Shamus getting to do something with his peers he might not otherwise get to do, and his best friend is going to be pushing him.”
And we have a feeling Shamus is going to be pulling Noah just as much as Noah does the pushing.
You can follow the Evans family on their journey on Ainsley’s Angels’ Power to Push page, or on Twitter at @power2push.