Distance Running Has New Meaning for Hay Family

David Yon, August 11, 2020

We like to talk about being family in the Tallahassee and Gulf Winds Track Club running community. This week’s column is a chance to send a first-class member of that family off to college.

In the “time before the virus” a crowd of runners and friends worked their way to Southwood. Hawthorne Hay, an outstanding student and runner, had finished his “time” at Chiles High School and was ready to start running for Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, where he plans to study biology with an eye toward becoming a trauma or cardiac-thoracic surgeon.

Earlier this summer he was looking for something to boost his confidence before beginning his new venture.

He decided to run a half marathon solo through the Southwood neighborhood in under 1:20:00.  A strength runner, Hawthorne will excel at the next level. This was a chance to prove it to himself. I talked to Hawthorne about his running and college plans.

Chiles' Hawthorne Hay runs at the 2018 Cougar XC Invitational at Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park.


Q. When did you begin running as a sport, not just because your mother was chasing you?

A. My first races were Turkey Trots with my family when I was really young (thanks David and Mary Jean!). And then sixth grade middle school cross country was the first time I really started competing. My sixth grade city championship at the Apalachee Regional Park (ARP) really stands out in my memory.

Father Carter and son Hawthorne Hay visit with Chris O’Kelley and Alyssa Moore.


Q. Who are the top people who have had an impact on your running?

A. I must start with my parents. My mom is as supportive and helpful as a running mom could ever be. She is like my nutrition and health coach — she gets me lots of good information. With my dad, it has really helped that he runs and trains hard, so there’s lots to talk about with training, racing and enjoying running.

And then beyond that, I think less of influential people and more in terms of influential groups — my incredible teammates (guys and girls) at Chiles, my friends who compete for other schools in Tallahassee, and then all the support from Gulf Winds Track Club over the years. I had great rivalries with Mike Savage and Felton Wright back when I was 13 years old! Those guys and others have been great to me.

Chiles senior Hawthorne Hay races during the FSU Invitational pre-state cross country meet at Apalachee Regional Park on Oct. 12, 2019.


Q. Please give us an overview of your running career.

A. Some key highlights: (a) being top 5-10 in the city in 8th grade, (b) running varsity cross country at Chiles by my sophomore year and getting to travel to the Nike Great American Cross Country Festival in Raleigh, NC, (c) finishing 2nd at State in cross country in the team competition during my sophomore and junior years, (d) finishing my high school competition with PRs of 16:22 in the 5K and 4:37 in the 1600, and (e) after the pandemic occurred, I finished my high school career with a solo half-marathon in SouthWood, running a 1:19:11 (6:02/mi.) in my first race at that distance. Thanks to all the people who came out to cheer me on.

Hawthorne Hay with his sister, mother and father.


Q. What does the sport mean to you?

A. Not a single day goes by when I am not thinking, planning, and dreaming about running (and that doesn’t even count the time actually running).

Q. College? Can you tell us a little about what role running played in your choice of schools?

Father Carter Hay and son, Hawthorne, with his cat, chat about college plans.


A. I’ll be going to Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, to run and major in Biology. Running there was a big part of my decision — I wanted great academics and great running, with a solid long distance coach and program. Coach Shankman is a legend in NCAA Division III cross country coaching, and he and his assistant have been terrific from the first day they started recruiting me.

Q. How has COVID-19 impacted your college plans?

A. Rhodes had to go fully remote, and our cross country season this year was cancelled. However, in August, I am moving to Alamosa, Colorado, with six of my Rhodes teammates. We will do our remote classes there and then train at elevation —Alamosa is 8,000 feet above sea level. It has been great to have something like that to be excited about.

Chiles graduate Hawthorne Hay, shown with his parents, Jennifer and Carter Hay, is about to go to Colorado, where he will do remote learning and train at higher elevations.


Q. Summer training — how has it been impacted by the virus?

A. Training has not slowed down at all. If anything, it is easier to stay focused because of fewer distractions and trips. I am running about 55-60 miles per week and feeling terrific. We ran lower mileage at Chiles, so this is new for me, but it’s exciting, and Coach Shankman’s plan is working great. A recent 13-mile run was at nearly the same pace as my half-marathon PR, and then I ran 10 miles the next day. I feel stronger than ever.

Q. Any advice you would offer to someone just now entering high school and wanting to compete as a runner in 2021?

A. The biggest thing is to enjoy the running. Competition is great, but you have to enjoy the running itself. And if you really care about running, approach it with that in mind. Mileage, strength training, running form, and nutrition all matter. Look for opportunities to make big jumps. For me, that was (a) the summer after my freshman year (when I finished the season not as well as I wanted) and (b) quarantine when I got a chance to re-tool my stride and my training with a focus on the future in a new program.

David Yon Guest columnist David Yon


David Yon is addicted to running. In his spare time, he is an attorney with the Radey Law Firm.