Born and raised in West Virginia, Summerson studied exercise physiology at Marshall University, where she met her husband Bryan. Fitness was a part of her life – and her major – so she ran to stay in shape while also teaching aerobics classes and personal training. When she moved to Minnesota for Bryan’s orthopedic surgery residency at the Mayo Clinic, she had to adapt to running in the cold, sometimes as cold as 20 degrees below zero!es.“I was working at the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center at the Mayo Clinic, so I was always meeting people interested in fitness and health” she said. “I met lots of fun people who liked to run, and we ended up forming a great running group filled with camaraderie, laughter and motivation. We would wake up at 5:15 am in the freezing cold and needed each other’s support.”
While in college, Summerson had run a few 5Ks, but in Minnesota, she went right to training for a full marathon. She ran her first, the Med City Marathon in Rochester, MN on Memorial Day weekend 2001. Since then, she has completed 12 full marathons, including Los Angeles, New York City, Grandma’s & Marine Corps.
After three more moves to Florida, Arizona & Boston, she ended up in Charlotte in 2005.
“We moved here, and two weeks later we had our first child Brycen. I went straight to being a stay-at-home mom.” With Bryan’s new career as a physician at OrthoCarolina, it didn’t take long for Summerson to seek a social connection with other moms who liked to run. “We would run through Myers Park with our strollers,” she said, “and when Finn was born I got a double stroller. Then Bennett was born and I got a triple stroller!” Being able to pack up and take the kids out for a run gave her a sense of freedom, and lifelong friendships formed.
It was around this time that Bryan also started running. They would hire a sitter to come at 5:30 am so they could train together. In 2014 they ran the LA marathon, and later completed Chicago and New York City marathons together.
As a young mom, Summerson became involved in several charities, including Love Without Boundaries. When Summerson first met Bryan, she was touched by his large family which included five adopted sisters. In 2013 their family grew to include Evie, their first daughter who they adopted from China, and then in 2017 came Poppy, their fifth child and second daughter, also adopted from China.
Summerson now spends countless hours volunteering for charities that support vulnerable children and families. Last year, she and Bryan hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim in one day as part of Difference Makers, an organization that allowed them to raise money for their chosen charity. This year, they were planning a similar trip to the Appalachian Trail, which had to be adapted to a COVID-19 virtual challenge to support the Salvation Army.
Looking ahead, Summerson and Bryan plan to run the Kiawah Half Marathon. Although the race has gone virtual, they will carry on their tradition of traveling to Kiawah on the second week of December to run their “virtual” race right there on the island.
Regardless of what life sends their way, running will remain their constant.
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