Cormac Evans is at his happiest when he’s sitting in his racing wheelchair, as his mom, Cindy Spiva, runs behind him. Evans has a rare neurological disorder that required doctors to remove most of the left side of his brain, leaving him largely paralyzed and unable to talk. But when the duo are on a run, Evans’ face is filled with a huge grin.
“Kids like Cormac are very rarely able to immerse themselves and fully participate in life around them,” Spiva, 50, tells Competitor magazine. “But when we run, in that experience, he’s a 100 percent participant. So often he’s invisible. He’s ignored. He’s treated like a piece of furniture. But when we run, people see him. They give him high-fives. Even though I’m his legs, he’s a full participant.”
Evans, 14, was born with hemimegalencephaly, and underwent brain surgery at just 5 months old. But he and Spiva didn’t discover his love of running until just a year ago, when they went to watch his friend at the Carlsbad 5000 race. His excitement inspired Spiva to take up the sport, starting with a couch-to-5K app.
Now, Spiva runs about 15-30 miles a week, some with Evans and some without, and their enthusiasm pushed Spiva to enter Competitor‘s cover contest, which they won. In her entry, Spiva didn’t mention that she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“I don’t really like things being about me,” she says. “I like that this was about Cormac. I’ve learned so much about the brain parenting Cormac that being handed my own diagnosis wasn’t a problem. I know what to do.”
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Spiva, who is semi-retired from her job in the education department at the San Diego Zoo, thinks that running keeps her mind and body sharp against MS.
“I believe in keeping my body moving and challenging it — especially on trails because [every] footfall is different,” she says. “While I’m training my body and muscles to respond, I’m also training my brain.”
Spiva says that she and Evans will continue to run as long as they can, and hope to inspire others.
“If I can do it, anyone can do it,” she says. “I just get out and move. My goal is not to win any race we get into. It’s not even to place in my age group. It’s just to participate. We’ll just keep moving as long as we can and hope that we continue to keep moving.”