The leg turnover was fast.
Arms were pumping.
Will Summerhays ran straight, tall and strong, driving for the finish line. He was not going to let anyone pass him near the end of the Old Koloa Sugar Mill Half Marathon on Saturday.
Not on this day.
Not when he’s running like the Will Summerhays of old, which he was.
The Kalaheo man felt wonderful after just hammering 13.1 miles in one hour, 39 minutes and 17 seconds.
Oh, he’s run faster. He’s run longer. He’s run better. But this performance, this race, was something he had been hoping for, working toward, for three years.
This was special.
“This is the first race since that accident I felt somewhat back to normal,” Summerhays said, as he sat on the grass Anne Knudsen Park with his wife, Karen, and sons Spencer and Lucas at the awards ceremony. “That felt like a good run. This was really good for me.”
“I felt better than I have in a long time running a race,” the 44-year-old added. “It was very uplifting. I’m really, really happy with how I did today. I feel like I can start improving even more.”
Good news for Summerhays. Bad news for locals going up against him.
The Kalaheo man finished ninth overall out of 116 runners and second in his age division. While the place and time were solid, even more satisfying was that Summerhays simply felt fine out there. He felt fast and even had to tell himself to slow down after checking his split when he passed the first mile.
He had to tell himself to take it easy and relax.
“I kept a pretty steady pace the rest of the way,” he said.
In the final three miles of the race, the toughest because it’s uphill on the Koloa Bypass Road, under the sun with no shade, he charged for home, swept past runners and held off others trying to chase him down.
“Those last three miles up the hill, I was prepared for them and felt stronger than I thought I would. I felt like I had energy the last miles,” he said.
Summerhays was one of Kauai’s top runners, finishing the 2013 Boston Marathon — the year of the bombing — in 3:39:23. He routinely knocked out tough training sessions to prepare for running fast in races like the 8-mile Haena to Hanalei.
Fitness and exercise was part of his life — and then came the accident three years ago.
Summerhays was riding his bike toward Waimea on the shoulder of the road when he was struck from behind by a car, tossed in the air and run over.
His injuries were severe.
He suffered head trauma, bruised lungs, broke all his ribs, his collarbone was shattered and he suffered nerve damage in his right arm. It took nearly a year before he could use his arm again.
Summerhays was hospitalized for days and spent months at home in bed. He was, he said, not able to do anything but rest at home. And hurt.
The head, the body, everything ached. Agony. The recover was long, slow and painful.
Will Summerhays didn’t quit. Didn’t even consider it.
As he regained his strength and his health, he began to run — to learn to run all over.
Just steps at first. Then more steps. Then down the street, and eventually miles. Then, more miles. He started competing in local fun runs again.
“It’s been a long, slow comeback of just running,” he said.
No biking. Not yet.
“Actually, I haven’t been back on a bike since the bike accident. That’s something I have to deal with,” he said.
For now, he’s glad to be back on course with running, perhaps toward another Boston Marathon.
“It’s taken me a long time to feel like I do right now,” he said. “From that standpoint, it’s a big deal for me.”
His training is going well. He runs three to five days a week, about 20 to 30 miles. He’s gaining confidence and plans to push the pace a little more, add miles and crank things up a bit.
“I gained my base back to where I can start improving,” he said.
His performance Saturday gave him new confidence.
“With this run I think I’m in a position where next year I can hopefully qualify for Boston. That will be my goal. I want to do another marathon. I want to try and qualify for Boston,” he said.
It was a good day for the Summerhays family at the 15th annual Old Koloa Sugar Mill Run.
Spencer won his 14 to 19 age group in the 5k in 22:15. Son Lucas was third in the 1-13 age group, finishing in 24:58.
Wife Karen was third in the 10k in her 40 to 49 age group, finishing in 57:36.
Will was proud of his sons and his wife, highlighting their efforts over his own.
“They all did well,” he said.
Karen was equally proud of her husband. To watch him cruising in was a delight.
”It was so fun to see him at the end,” she said. “He looked great, strong and fast and back at it.”
Yes, Will Summerhays is back.
Next up is a half marathon on Thanksgiving in Utah, where their daughters attend school, when the Summerhays family gathers for the holidays.
“It will be a little bit colder for us, but it will be fun,” Will Summerhays said.
And they plan to run the Great Aloha Run in Honolulu.
Summerhays smiles at the talk of those races. He loves to run. He loves to run fast.
And on Saturday, he did.
Oh, yeah, it felt so good — the kind of hurt that comes with running well. It’s the pain that comes with gasping for air, gutting it out in the final miles, so no one passes you, nearly collapsing at the finish.
“I haven’t been as happy with a race for a long time,” he said.
Sounds like many more happy days are ahead.