It’s 6 a.m. on a Monday morning and Blaine Moms on the Run member Shaun Olson is already at the high school track helping to lead the pre-dawn workout for Moms on the Run. Tuesday, her wake-up call is 5 a.m., when she’ll hit the road to meet up with a group of men from Miles in My Shoes for a training run. She’s one of their run mentors, but admits she learns just as much from them as they do from her. Then, it may be her day to deliver food for Meals on Wheels, chatting with the sweet elderly clients who open their doors on her route. Other days she may donate plasma, or take on a shift at her local brewery, or help coach a night class with her Moms on the Run group.
While her days are spent volunteering for one organization or another, every race she runs with a purpose — raising thousands for charities close to her heart and transforming running into a sport of generosity. That generosity — along with the ability to always make running look fun — is part of her core. In fact, spend any time with Shaun and it’s impossible to not walk away inspired yourself. Read more of Shaun’s story and learn why she’s our inspiring member of the month.
Q: When did you first join Moms on the Run? Please share a bit about how you got involved. Were you a runner before Moms on the Run?
A: I first heard about Moms on the Run in 2009 when a flyer came home in my daughter’s school folder. I had never been a runner, but at that time I was playing recreational soccer and realized I had no stamina. My friend Brenda said “let’s do this” so we joined and I have been running with MOTR ever since.
Q: You are a great example of someone who takes a passion and turns it into something good for humankind. Every goal, every race seems to be for a charity. Tell us about some of your favorite races over the past few years and what’s on the horizon.
A: A definite highlight race for me from the past few years was the 2022 Berlin Marathon, which I ran as part of Team Homes for our Troops (HFOT). I first became involved with Team HFOT in 2014 when I was a charity fundracer for them at the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon (MCM). I grew up in Germany where my dad was a teacher on an Air Force Base. When I was looking to run MCM, I wanted to find a charity partner that was affiliated with veterans.
My research brought me to Team HFOT, an organization that builds specially adapted homes and donates them to severely injured post-9/11 veterans around the country, giving them a start at rebuilding their lives. It was an amazing experience to run through our nation’s capital and to finish at the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, made even better by knowing that the money I raised was helping someone who served and sacrificed. Fast forward to 2019, when I was notified by HFOT that they had bibs for the 2020 Berlin Marathon, which fell on my birthday that year — I took it as a sign that I needed to sign up. The 2020 race was postponed due to the pandemic, so I deferred and ultimately ran the race in 2022. It was an incredible experience to be back there with my husband, mom and brother cheering me on. To be able to run through the Brandenberg Gate, which previously stood between the East and the West, was so meaningful. I originally thought Berlin would be my last marathon, but I had so much fun along the course that I came back and threw my name in the lottery for the Chicago Marathon. I will be participating with Team HFOT this October at the 2023 Chicago Marathon and have plans to join them in November 2024 for the New York City Marathon.
Another organization that I am honored to be affiliated with is Mile in My Shoes, a local non-profit that “views running as a tool for both personal and collective transformation.” MiMS is based in homeless shelters, addiction recovery programs, re-entry centers for people exiting incarceration, and recently added a team for people transitioning out of military service. I joined MiMS’ new Team Union Gospel Mission this past spring as a run mentor. I’ve loved connecting with and encouraging the men in the program.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being a coach for Moms on the Run?
A: I started volunteering as a coach a few years after I started running as a way to give back to our local franchise. I love cheering the women on and helping them see what they are capable of. I think as women we put a lot of pressure on ourselves — I hope that I bring a perspective that allows people to give themselves grace on their journey. And on a less serious note, I also like to provide a little comic relief during post-workout strength sessions.
Q: At Moms on the Run, we talk about being #MOTRstrong, what does that term mean to you?
A: #MOTRStrong can be a reference to physical strength, but to me it is more about mental strength and believing in ourselves because of the support of the women around us. My favorite MOTR hashtag is actually #BetterTogether, because I truly think we are. I feel like our world is hurting because of a lack of community and connection; it is important to remember that we need each other.
Q: What have you learned about yourself since becoming a part of Moms on the Run?
A: I have learned that I can do hard things and that I am much stronger than I thought. I take the long view with running because I want to be active into old age — that means that I need to know when to push and when to rest. So I’ve learned to listen to my body.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is considering Moms on the Run?
A: Originally, I was hesitant about joining because I wasn’t a runner. I am also a tad awkward so jumping into new groups stresses me out. But I am so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone because running is now a part of my identity. I remember Coach Steph encouraging me early on and telling me I was a strong runner (this was before I could run 30 minutes without stopping). It was a huge boost to my confidence and I just kept building from there. If running is something you have pondered, you can’t beat the camaraderie of a running group like Moms on the Run. Before you know it, you’ll be signing up for races and running adventures with your team.
Q: Please tell us a little more about you personally (your family, job-in or out of the home, hobbies, etc.)
A: I’ve been married to my husband Rick for almost 23 years and we have two college-aged daughters, Erin at UW-Madison (go Badgers) and Meeghan at the University of St. Thomas (go Tommies). I worked for 25 years in the medical device industry, but have spent the last four years focused on family while working part-time at Invictus Brewing and volunteering.