Interviewing Five of the Fastest Wheelchair Racing Duos in the Country

Learn the differences and similarities in how they train as well as what pushes them to push others
The people that I’ve met through being a part of Team Hoyt has been incredible. While people admire athletes like Tom Brady, I look up to these athletes far more. If Michael Jordan tells an aspiring basketball player to make 100 free throws before you leave the gym, they would. And if these five say you need to run hill repeats, I’m lacing up my shoes and heading out the door.

There is no shortage of online publications about Shamus and Shaun or Kyle and Brent. I suggest you seek these out if you need an extra push to start training.

Meet the five duos that you’ll be hard pressed to keep up with on the roads.

Steve Sinko and Preston Buenaga
1. How long have you been running? How long have you been running with a racing chair?
I have been running for 28 years, started as a freshman in high school with cross country. I have been running with a racing chair for a little over 3 years. I got involved in running with a chair because a local race director told my friend Preston and his Mom Deb that they could not compete as a team in one of his races. Essentially they were told they were a liability. Another race timing company, Fusion Racing, decided to put on a 5k that invited anyone with any type of adaptive equipment to participate. It was at this race, The  Inclusion Means Everyone 5k, that Deb asked me to push Preston for the first time. It was at this race that I had an experience running that was completely different from anything else I had ever done previously. And after that I knew that I wanted to continue racing with a partner as much as I could

2. What are your race PRs/proudest performances?
Mile – 4:16/ pushing 4:58
5k – 15:14/ pushing 16:31
Half Marathon – 1:08:45/ pushing 1:25:52
Marathon 2:24:43/ pushing 2:54.29.
The performance I am most proud of is the first marathon I ran with my friend Preston Buenaga at the 2016 Philadelphia Marathon. Going into the race I was quite nervous about attempting to tackle that distance for the first time as a duo team. It ended up being a great day for both us. Also very proud of my marathon PR at the 2006 Chicago Marathon because of the amount of work I put into preparing for it, but it does pale in comparison to what Preston and I have done together.

3. What is your training schedule typically like?
These days on average I typically do about 40 miles per week on 5-6 days of running. When getting ready for a long distance race I put in about 6-8 weeks of 60 miles per week on 6 days of running. Usually there are 2 hard days (1 long run, 1 speed/tempo workout) and 3-4 easy days. I try to put in 2-3 days of strength training per week, no cross training.

4. Do you think runners pushing a chair have to train differently than those running solo?
One of the things I have found regarding pushing the chair is that the better running shape I am in the easier it is to push. That being said, I do think you have to train a little differently. I think you need to have familiarity with the chair, so getting in at least one run per week pushing is important. You need to get used to running without using your arms as much. Many people think that is obvious, but until you actually do it I don’t think people understand how important your arms are. Strength training is important also, as both uphills and downhills require a lot more from your body to move and control the chair.

5. Do you have an “off-season”? If so, how is it typically spent training-wise?
I stay pretty consistent with my training. After a marathon, I take 2-3 days completely off then get back into strength training. Depending on how recovery goes I will start some easy running 4-7 days after the race. I wouldn’t say I really have an off-season. If I’m not specifically training for a race, I still like to get the miles in to have a good base and stay running fit. If anything I may spend a little more time strength training. But generally I like to lead an active lifestyle incorporating running and fitness.

6. Would you be faster without the chair?
Yes, I would be faster without the chair. But I can’t really say how much. Since I’ve been racing with a chair, my times without it haven’t been all that substantially faster. At this point in my life it is more fun and fulfilling to be out there sharing the race experience with someone. On my own, I would say that I don’t get “up” for races like I used to.

7. Would you train as hard without the motivation from the individual you push in the chair? 
No, I would not train as hard for running without the motivation from the person in the chair. This past weekend I ran the Philadelphia Marathon with my buddy Preston. While he and I did not do a ton of running together in preparation for this race, when I was training with the chair specifically it kept me motivated thinking about goals we had for the race and going forward. Ultimately, the time we run isn’t all that important, but I do want to make sure it is a good experience for him. We always have fun when out there together, but I also want to give him my perspective of racing. While our relationship started because of running, it has grown into something bigger than just racing. Crossing finish lines together, sharing experiences, and creating new memories are all incredibly motivating factors that would not be there if I was just out there for myself.

Ted Painter and Nick Draper
1. How long have you been running?  How long have you been running with a racing chair?
I’ve run for fitness my entire life but started running marathons in November, 2009. I’ve run with a racing chair the last 5 years.

2. What are your race PRs/proudest performances?  
2:54 marathon with Nick (PR at Vermont City Marathon) and running sub 3 (2:59) with Nick at the 2017 Boston Marathon.  36:40 10k with Nick and 17:48 5k with Nick.

3. What is your training schedule typically like?
I run between 25 and 50 miles per week with a focus on speed/hills twice a week and a slow endurance long run every other week with tempo and lactate threshold runs mixed in.  Mileage of runs vary from 4 to 20 miles.  Long run weekends include a pre-long run at race pace that’s half the distance of my planned long run followed by a 4 mile shake out run—the long run is a three day process.  All long runs are with Nick.

4. Do you think runners pushing a chair have to train differently than those running solo?
Starting out, it helps to run with the chair frequently.  Training hills is a must.  Upper body chest, shoulder, bi/tri, deltoid, and back weight lifting helps a lot—high reps, low weight.

5. Do you have an “off-season”? If so, how is it typically spent training-wise? 
December.  No set schedule for running.  Just fun.  Weight lifting.

6. Would you be faster without the chair? 
Right now—yes.  After a few months of not racing with Nick, no—see #7.

7. Would you train as hard without the motivation from the individual you push in the chair?
No

Shaun and Shamus Evans
1. How long have you been running? How long have you been running with a racing chair?
I ran track in high school, played soccer in college and began running long distance in 2001.  I started pushing Shamus in his running chair as soon as he was able to safely ride in a jogging stroller (2007ish)

2. What are your race PRs/proudest performances?
My solo PRs are:
50K trail – 3:57
Marathon – 2:26 / Half Marathon – 1:08
10k – 31:25 / 5K – 15:11
With Shamus-
6 hour- 46 miles / 8 hour- 55 miles
Marathon- 3:01 / Half marathon- 1:21
5k- 17:08 / 1 mile- 4:41
Ran 3205 miles across America in 60 days
Ran 1700 miles down America (north to South) in 29 days
Multiple Triathlons including back to back Olympic and Half Ironman distances

3. What is your training schedule typically like?
My training now is very different than it used to be.  Priorities have shifted from running for time and personal bests, to running with Shamus. Currently I run most days per week (6-7), with a long run (20 miles or more) once per week.  My focus isn’t on pace as much as it used to be. Any chance I can run with Shamus I do (winter we rarely run together unless it is a destination race). I usually strength train 2-3 times weekly but do some strength and core work daily (even if it is only 5 or ten minutes). As we ramp up for transcontinental runs, I run and walk much more, basically every free minute I have. Occasionally I will run with a weighted chair, but usually when I don’t have Shay with me, I run solo. During triathlon training my focus shifts to biking and swimming as I know we can always “muscle through a run”. My training is much less regimented now and focuses more on the joy of getting out there with Shay.

4. Do you think runners pushing a chair have to train differently than those running solo?
It depends on the goals…to go out and run a 5k periodically for the fun of it, not really as long as they understand rider safety.  For longer distances and if they want to get fast, then training with the chair being pushed will help

5. Do you have an “off-season”? If so, how is it typically spent training-wise?
No real off season, just shift focus from running to triathlons

6. Would you be faster without the chair?
I used to be faster before racing with the chair, but I enjoy running more now, and have accomplished things I would not have if it wasn’t for Shamus inspiring us to do so (i.e. transcontinental running)

7. Would you train as hard without the motivation from the individual you push in the chair?
I used to train harder with time being my sole focus. Now I sometimes train longer, and enjoy my training more. Again, it’s all about the goals..

Brent and Kyle Pease
1. How long have you been running? How long have you been running together with Kyle?
I started running again in 2007.  Kyle joined in on the fun in 2011.

2. What are your race PRs/proudest performances?
5k 18.44 / 10k 37.32
Half Marathon 1:29 / Marathon 3:27
Ironman 14:29.00

3. What is your training schedule typically like?
20-25 hrs per week at peak.  Swimming 2-3x per week, biking 3-4x per week and running 2-3x week.  1 strength session and 3-4 mobility sessions

4. Do you think runners pushing a chair have to train differently than those running solo?
Somewhat but consistency is the biggest factor in my success.

5. Do you have an “off-season”? If so, how is it typically spent training-wise?
Typically I take November pretty easy and start slowly easing back in during December.  By January I am focused on a consistent schedule and finding our races for the year.

6.) Would you be faster without the chair?
Perhaps, but I find more enjoyment and motivation being with my brother and behind the chair.

7.) Would you train as hard without the motivation from Kyle?
This was a personal journey first.  So I think it is certainly possible.  But as it progresses it becomes easier to find motivation from my brother.  He is a wonderful friend, companion and training partner.

James Anderson and Rusty Wilkins
1. How long have you been running? How long have you been running with a racing chair?
I started running in High School and really fell in love with the sport. Fortunately, I was able to continue running at The University of New Hampshire for the next 4 years, where I got a great education in the sport and learned a lot about training and hard work. I started running with Rusty the summer before me senior year in College. We had heard of Rick and Dick Hoyt before and our family was somewhat aware of the wheelchair racing concept. For whatever reason it had never clicked that we were great candidates to try it ourselves. Eventually we stumbled on the Team Hoyt Racing website and reached out. They were generous enough to let us borrow a chair and we haven’t looked back since!

2. What are your race PRs/proudest performances?
Rusty and I ran a 3:13 marathon this fall which is likely our most impressive PR. A few races stick out that I’m proud of. Honestly, just finishing our first marathon in 2015 felt like a huge accomplishment.  Being able to run in the beach to beacon 10k in Cape Elizabeth Maine this past summer was another really great experience for us both.

3. What is your training schedule typically like?
Truthfully my training schedule is far from perfect. After college I felt a little burnt out from training and I just ran a few times a week. The last year and a half or so I have been training more consistently. Usually running somewhere in the 40-50 mile range. Just going for steady runs, no workouts. The only other training I typically do is with an exercise band to try and avoid overuse injuries.

4. Do you think runners pushing a chair have to train differently than those running solo?
I don’t think you have to train differently but to get the absolute best result while pushing I think you would have to. Running while pushing requires a lot of strength in your lower half. Training with the chair and building strength would absolutely improve your results.

5. Do you have an “off-season”? If so, how is it typically spent training-wise?
The last 3 years I have taken the winter, November-March completely off. No running and not much of anything else. After so many years of running year round, it has been nice to take some time off. That being said,  this year I plan on taking November off and beginning to build that fitness back up starting in December.

6. Would you be faster without the chair?
I view this question in a couple different ways. If I wasn’t running with Rusty I would probably just run occasionally and I wouldn’t race at all. Just enjoy retirement so to speak. My collegiate times are much faster than I could run with Rusty but at this stage, my only desire to race is with him.

7. Would you train as hard without the motivation from the individual you push in the chair? 
Not even close. He is my sole motivation to train and race. I’m lucky I have a partner who can push me to keep training and improving our performance.

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