When Shamus Evans returns to school this fall, he will have quite the story to tell about how he spent his summer vacation.
Shamus and the rest of the Evans family, residents of upstate New York, left Seattle on July 3 for an epic cross-country journey. While his mother Nichole and brother Simon have made most of the trip in an RV, Shamus and his father Shaun have traveled on foot, with Shaun pushing Shamus across more than 3,000 miles over 60 days to raise awareness and support for Ainsley’s Angels of America.
Shaun has pushed Shamus, who was born with cerebral palsy, in jogging strollers ever since he was little. By age 7, however, Shamus had outgrown the standard jogging stroller, designed primarily for use with toddlers. Shaun contacted Team Hoyt, the popular father-son duo best known for their participation in the Boston Marathon, who directed him to Ainsley’s Angels, an organization that aims to include those with special needs in athletic events. That led to the purchase of a Freedom Push Chair, a jogging chair designed for individuals up to 200 pounds.
“As soon as Shamus got that chair, he wanted to start racing,” Shaun says. “Up to then we had just done training runs, but he wanted to try a race. It was a little local race, 99 degrees, 95 percent humidity, but Shamus still loved it. He was hooked.”
Shaun took Shamus along on his first ultramarathon, the Sweltering Six Hour Ultra Marathon, and ended up winning the race, completing 45 miles in six hours on a .335-mile loop.
“I asked him every 15 minutes if he wanted to keep going, but I could tell he was getting annoyed so I stopped asking,” Shaun says. “Four hours into the race, we told Shamus he needed to take a break, get him some lunch, use the bathroom, stretch his legs, so he relented, but said I needed to keep running. He really inspired me that day, because if it wasn’t for him running with me, I would’ve stopped to take a break and get myself a lunch.”
On the way home from the ultra, Shamus wondered aloud how far he and his father could travel if they ran 45 miles every day during summer vacation. Using it as an opportunity to teach their son about math, Shaun and Nichole found that they would cover about 3,000 miles in that time. To demonstrate the distance and teach their son about geography, they showed him that 3,000 miles would take you from one ocean to the next.
“You could see a light bulb go off in his head,” Sean says. “‘We need to do that!’ [he said].”
Shamus didn’t forget about the idea, as Shaun and Nicole expected he would, and around Thanksgiving of that year, Shamus asked if they could donate chairs like his to other kids who needed them when they ran across the country.
“For that to come from a 7-year-old [was powerful],” Shuan says. “The following week I spoke with my boss about taking the vacation time I had saved up in one big lump in 2015.”
Since their journey began, Shaun and Shamus have run anywhere between 45 and 61 miles every single day. Over 20 months of training, Shaun would routinely run 40 miles per day, often running a marathon on a treadmill before going to work as physical therapist and running a half marathon on the treadmill after he came home for the day. Shaun didn’t work on Thursdays, and used that time off to get in a much longer run than most runners tackle when they don’t need to go into work.
“I put the boys on the bus in the morning, ran the entire day they were at school, and got home just in time to get them off the bus for a 60-70 mile run every Thursday for seven months,” Shaun says. “I ran up to 400 miles in a week.”
Two-thirds of the way through their journey, Shaun says so far things have gone well. When not running, he has been able to join in family activities, including a stop at Mt. Rushmore and has stayed injury-free despite his high mileage. On Aug. 13, the Evans donated a Freedom Chairs to a family in Schaumburg. The Evans have networked on Facebook through Ainsley’s Angels and I Run 4 to find families in need of Freedom Chairs, including the family in Schaumburg.
“Parents or local families will nominate kids, and we’ve tried to honor every one,” Shaun says. “We didn’t want to say no to anyone as long as they were close enough. That’s what this mission is all about: promoting inclusion and giving that gift of mobility.”