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From Disdain to Distance: Shaun Bemis’ Ultra Running Journey

From Disdain to Distance: Shaun Bemis' Ultra Running Journey Run Tri Bike
Shaun Bemis
Year started: 2019
Next race: August 31st / Pinellas Trail Challenge / St Petersburg, FL
Favorite gear:
  • Altra Running Shoes
  • Injinji Socks
  • Goodr Sunglasses
  • Target Brand Running Shorts

When Shaun Bemis, a former military man and lifelong soccer player, first laced up his running shoes in 2019, he never imagined he’d become an ultra marathon enthusiast. His transition from disdain to distance and the thrill of ultra trail races is a testament to the transformative power of finding your niche and embracing adaptability.

Discovering The Joy of Running

Shaun’s running journey began with a simple trip to New York City. “In 2019, we were visiting family in New York, and there was just something about the city,” Shaun recalls. Inspired by the energy of the city that never sleeps, he found himself running more than ever before. One morning, a spontaneous challenge to run from Brooklyn to Manhattan sparked his interest in marathon running. “It seemed pretty cool, having zero clue how difficult it is to get into the race,” he says, reflecting on his goal to run the New York City Marathon before turning 40.

However, the pandemic hit, altering his plans and pushing him to explore ultra marathons instead. He was captivated by the less structured nature of ultra running. “There was just something about the ultra vibe, where people weren’t asking about your time or pace. It just kind of fit for me,” Shaun explains. This newfound freedom in running allowed him to run at his own pace, listen to his body, and enjoy the journey without the pressure of proving anything to anyone.

The Unstructured Training Approach

Shaun’s approach to training is anything but conventional. Drawing from his military background, he values adaptability over rigid schedules. “I’ve never followed a training plan,” he admits. “If I feel like running, I run. If I don’t, I don’t force it.” This mindset was particularly important when balancing training with family commitments. With four daughters, two of whom are young and live at home with Shaun and his wife, he has learned to adjust his runs to fit his unpredictable schedule, often squeezing in miles whenever he could.

This flexibility, however, doesn’t mean Shaun is unprepared. His military experience taught him the importance of planning and adaptability. “We used to say, ‘The enemy has a say in this fight too.’ You can have the perfect plan, but the second things change, you need to adjust.” This ability to adapt on the fly has been crucial in his ultra running, especially when faced with unexpected challenges during races.

The Appeal of Ultra Running

Ultra running’s appeal lies in its unique combination of physical challenge and mental fortitude. Shaun’s goal of running a 100-mile race is not just about the distance but the personal growth and resilience it fosters. “Every race, every new distance, I’ve learned something new about myself,” he shares. “I want to know what it feels like to be in your last couple miles after going all day, all night, and into the next day.”

This pursuit of pushing boundaries is deeply personal for Shaun. Unlike competitive sports or military training, ultra running is a solo journey where the only person to compete with is oneself. “I’m okay being a middle-of-the-pack guy. I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone,” he says. This mindset allows him to find joy in the process, regardless of the outcome.


Advice for New Runners

For those new to running or considering their first ultra marathon, Shaun emphasizes the importance of finding what works for you. “Discovering what I enjoyed in running is what did it for me,” he notes. Whether it’s the camaraderie of a running group or the solitude of a long trail run, finding your niche is key to maintaining motivation.

He also stresses the significance of a supportive crew. Having a reliable support system during races can make a world of difference. “My wife has been my main crew for all my races,” Shaun says. “It’s a huge commitment, but having someone there who understands your needs can be incredibly motivating.”

Balancing Life and Running

One of the biggest challenges for any endurance athlete is balancing training with other life commitments. Shaun’s approach is to integrate running into his life rather than letting it dominate. “I choose races that fit into my life,” he explains. This means selecting events that are close to home or that align with family schedules, ensuring that his passion for running complements rather than conflicts with his responsibilities.

The Next Big Goal

Shaun’s ultimate goal is to complete a 100-mile race. This ambition requires a level of structure and discipline that he hasn’t fully embraced yet, but he’s ready for the challenge. “I know I can do hard things,” he asserts. His training will involve not just physical preparation but also mental resilience, a skill honed from years of military service and ultra running experience.

Shaun Bemis’ journey from hating running to becoming an ultra marathon enthusiast is a powerful reminder that finding your passion can transform your life. His unstructured, adaptable approach to training and his focus on personal growth over competition offer valuable lessons for new and seasoned runners alike. By embracing what you enjoy, finding a supportive crew, and balancing running with life’s commitments, anyone can find joy and success in the world of endurance sports.