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Setting Big Goals: What We Can Learn from the Evans Family

The transcontinental run is an almost mind-boggling challenge. To achieve this goal, one must be willing to commit an extreme amount of time, energy, and faith. Moreover, one has to rely on family, friends, and the kindness of strangers in the pursuit of a near superhuman accomplishment. What can the average runner learn from people who undertake these extraordinary quests?

I’ve been thinking a lot about cross-county running (like, literally, running across the country) this week because of the Evans family. On July 4, Shaun, Nichole, Shamus, and Simon Evans will leave from Seattle, Washington on a cross- country run that will finish up on September 1 in New York, at Pelham Bay in the Bronx. Shamus, age 9, has cerebral palsy, but that hasn’t stopped him from experiencing his life to the fullest. Several years ago, Shamus got hooked on ultra running after his father, Shaun Evans, won a six-hour ultra marathon while pushing him in a jogging stroller. Shamus then set a goal of completing a transcontinental run, but unfortunately, he was outgrowing his old jogging stroller and needed a better set of wheels.

Luckily, Shaun was able to contact Dick Hoyt, well known for pushing his son Rick and regularly completing the Boston Marathon and Iron Man Triathlon. Dick put Shaun in contact with Ainsley’s Angels –– an organization that pairs rider athletes and runners and raises money to supply custom running chairs for these athletes. After quickly raising money for their own chair, the Evans family decided to use their transcontinental run to promote the work of Ainsley’s Angels. As they run through the county, the Evanses will raise money, build awareness, and distribute custom running chairs in each of the states through which they travel. Shaun and Shamus will have to run roughly 3,201 miles in sixty days; Nichole and Simon constitute the support team. Fleet Feet is just one of many sponsors supporting their efforts.

Shaun Evans being interviewed at Fleet Feet Albany

Shamus has been instrumental in helping his father prepare for the rigorous running ahead, coaching, nagging, and inspiring him to reach deep into himself to pile up mileage. In a recent interview, Shaun explained that Shamus’ training philosophy boiled down to a very simple mantra: “Run far… and if you don’t have time to run far, run FAST.” ( This is good advice when training to run across the country. Shaun has put in sequential training weeks of 200 miles as he gets ready to average just over 53 miles per day running across the United States. In a future blog, I am going to ask you if you are running enough to meet your goals. Shaun’s training should make us realize that we can do more. It should also remind us that we can do more if we are not merely doing it for ourselves.

Here is where the story of Shaun and Shamus and the Evans family can give us not just inspiration, but some useful running lessons as well. Set some audacious goals for yourself. I mean BIG GOALS. Establish a goal that might look crazy when you set it down on paper. I imagine that when the Evans family started thinking about running across the country it was daunting. The physical requirements are scary enough –- that is a lot of running. But, the logistics are even more complicated: Where are we going to stay? What route will be direct enough without too much traffic? How are we going to supply enough calories to keep someone who is running two marathons a day fueled

The good news is that even the most outsized goal, once reduced to a statement of intention, then can be broken down into manageable pieces: training programs, supplies, maps, budgets and band-aids. It is, however, the intangibles – your will, belief, and focused intention – that will move your goal from dream to reality. Often, success can depend on making sure that one’s big goal benefits more than just oneself. In the case of Shaun Evans, running across the country was not his idea. His son Shamus matter-of-factly convinced him that they needed to do this, but for the right reasons –– to raise funding for Ainsley’s Angels and to make sure that other rider athletes could experience the joys of movement experienced by Shamus. The lesson here is that whatever the goal, be sure to take your ego out of the equation. It will just slow you down.

Heroic goals depend on your current capabilities. Getting out there and completing a 5K for a local charity, for instance, is laudable. Especially if it’s your first one, running a road race can be a significant personal challenge. You will probably need some support from new running mates and family to see you through. It is easier when you fix your mind on the good that you are doing, realizing that while your muscles may be sore, there is a larger purpose to your activities. When you finish – as you will, because others will benefit – you will be in the position to run longer, get faster, and set new goals that are always beyond your current abilities.

You may not have the time or capacity to run across the country for charity, but if you have the desire to set a big goal and make a difference in the lives of the Capital Region’s neediest citizens, plan on joining us November 13-14 at Fleet Feet Albany for our Third Annual 24 Hour Fight Against Hunger treadmill event to raise funds for the Regional Food Bank. As the Evans family shows us, running for another’s sake can take you places that you never dreamed possible.

If you’d like to learn more about the Evans family and Ainsley’s Angels, you can read “A Son’s Dream, a Father’s Devotion,” Runner’s World Online:

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