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Best Running Friend Week (#BRFweek): A Father, A Son, and 3,200-Mile Mission

The Evans family before their 3,200 summer vacation.
The Evans family after their 3,200 summer vacation.

Day Two of #BRFweek, a weeklong tribute to Best Running Friends: forces that push us farther than we thought we could go. As we celebrate all week long on our Facebook page, celebrate your BRF with our special deal in the Mother Runner Store: buy any $25 lifestyle tee, get one for $10 (one for you, one for your BRF). Use code BRF10 at checkout.

To checkout all the happenings of #BRFweek, head here.  But before you do, read this tribute to Shamus, the son and BRF of Shaun Evans who we hosted on our podcast before their Power to Push cross country adventure.

My best running friend (BRF) is different than most.

In fact, my BRF doesn’t even run, at least in the conventional sense.

My BRF is only 9 years old and was born with cerebral palsy, limiting his primary means of mobility to a wheelchair.

However, he has the heart and soul of a runner, he has the ability to inspire and motivate, he loves having great conversations and sharing stories on the road, and he loves the wind in his face. All qualities you'd look for in a BRF.

My BRF is my son, Shamus, and while he doesn’t run on his own, I have the honor to be his legs as I push him in his running chair.

This summer I had the opportunity to run more miles with my BRF than many people will run in a lifetime. From July 4 through September 1, we averaged 54 miles of running per day as we made our way from Seattle, WA to Bronx, NY.

Sharing another running chair as the Evans duo cruised across the country and changed lives.
Rolling, rolling, rolling...and running.

To most people that adventure might sound like a nightmare, but to Shamus it was literally a dream come true. He dreamt it up when he was just 7 and through his persistence—another great BRF quality—he convinced our family that we should run across America and donate running chairs to other kids like him so that they too could feel the joy of running.

After two years of diligent training, planning and fundraising, the journey began with Shamus using his walker to lead the family out of the water and on to the beach at Golden Gardens Park in Seattle. His infectious was smile as I transferred him into his running chair, and we were off for our first of 60 consecutive days of running over 50 miles.

Not once did I question “What did I get myself into?” or “Why am I doing this?” How could I? I had my inspiration right in front of me all summer long: my BRF, pulling me along more than I was pushing him.

Simon and Shamus at Mount Rushmore, the very first place they said they wanted to see. "Our path across the USA was based on passing by this National Treasure," says Sean.
Simon and Shamus at Mount Rushmore, the very first place they said they wanted to see. "Our path across the USA was based on passing by this National Treasure," says Sean.

One of Shamus’ favorite quotes is “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” I am not sure where he first heard it, but he lives it to the fullest. Shamus has significant limitations in his physical mobility. His legs are very tight and spastic, his trunk muscles are weak. He requires assistance to get dressed, use the bathroom, get in and out of bed, etc.

Yet he does everything with a beaming smile and positive outlook. Most importantly, his ability to dream big, quietly inspire and motivate, and literally lead the way, are stronger than anyone else I know.

Of course, we encountered our minor setbacks on the road: a propane leak in the RV, getting lost while running, forgetting my cell phone and not being able to contact the pit crew (my wife Nichole and our younger son Simon), a sprained ankle, dead end roads, huge mountains, campgrounds that had lost our reservation, triple digit temperatures and running out of water.  In fact, ALL of those things happened to us on day 6 of our transcontinental run. We could've given up, but Shamus' eternal optimism had our entire family smiling as we went to bed that night.

Which is harder: running 3,200 miles or driving this rig the same distance?
Which is harder: running 3,200 miles or driving this rig the same distance?

Shamus' contagious positivity continued as we ran toward the rising sun daily. As my toenails fell off and my feet ached, Shamus gladly volunteered his brother to massage my toes. When my legs and feet said they were done for the day, I had Shamus right in front of me to lean on, to bear some of the weight and to keep us moving forward.

Day after day after day, we ran. Up and down the Rocky mountains, through Yellowstone National Park, small town America and occasional metropolitan areas, and past hundreds of acres of, as my tour guide Shamus put it, “Corn on your left and soybeans on your right”.

From time to time we listened to Shamus’ “play mix” on our portable speaker, but more often than not he kept me entertained and distracted by telling me stories, reciting lines from the books he read while we ran, reliving dreams he had the night before, and talking about reaching the Atlantic together.

That dream fruition on September 1 when Shamus again led the family as he used his walker to splash into the shores of the Atlantic. Shamus had not only inspired me to run over 3200 miles in 60 days, but he had been an inspiration across the nation.

The Finish! Shaun and Shamus hit the Atlantic. . (Stuart Ramson/AP Images for Larabar)
The Finish! Shaun and Shamus hit the Atlantic. . (Stuart Ramson/AP Images for Larabar)

We donated 27 running chairs to families on our mission to gift mobility from coast to coast, thereby promoting inclusion and active lives for kids with limitations. Through Shamus’ mission I have realized that there really is no greater gift than doing something for someone else. We also now completely understand the phrase “teamwork makes the dream work”.

In the process of our incredible feat, Shamus and I made memories for ourselves, our family, and for others that are sure to last a lifetime.

I look forward to what the road ahead has to offer my BRF and me.

10 responses to “Best Running Friend Week (#BRFweek): A Father, A Son, and 3,200-Mile Mission

  1. I got to see you run (and run by your side for a little bit) at the Saratoga 1/2 on Sunday! You are inspiring and lovely folks! Happy to have seen you!

  2. This is so inspiring! I followed them on fb all summer. I am training for my first marathon and whenever training got hard or my long runs looked a little daunting, I just thought hey, I’m not going 50+ miles EVERY DAY, I can do this! Major kudos to this dad for giving his son the chance to make his dream a reality!

  3. I followed them on facebook after listening to your podcast. Thank you for introducing us to their mission and for this summary as well. They’re an incredible family with an even more incredible summer vacation story.

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