Ryan Hall uses faith to guide his training for Houston 2012

Heading into the 2012 Olympic Trials, Ryan Hall has a lot to be excited about. The defending Olympic Trials champion and American Record holder in the half-marathon thrilled on-lookers at the 2011 Boston Marathon when he crossed the finish line in 4th place in a time of 2:04.58, the fastest time ever run by an American. Heading into this year’s Olympic Trials in Houston, Texas, Hall will compete in his first trials without Terrence Mahon but continues to apply many of Mahon’s workouts and training methods into his new training schedule.

As American distance running continues to enjoy a recent resurgence, Hall is leading the pack of extremely fast marathoners with a renewed stress-free attitude and unbreakable faith. With so many talented athletes, some tested, some untested, competing for a spot on the Olympic Team, this year is sure to be one of the best group of runners ever assembled to represent the U.S. in the Olympic marathon.

Recently, USA Track & Field was able to ask Ryan Hall questions and discover what life has been like since winning the Olympic Trials Marathon in 2008 and his thoughts heading into 2012.

 

Can you describe what it was like winning the 2008 Olympic Trials Marathon in New York?

Winning the Olympic Trials was one of the highlights of my life.  It was the fulfillment of one of a vision I had when I was 14 years old and had just finished my first run around the lake.  What was so special about it for me is that I had so many hard times throughout my running career that it made it that much more sweet to hit a great day on the right day.  However, more than all the gratification that came from accomplishing a dream, what make winning the Olympic Trials so special for me was the connection I felt with God all throughout the race.  Running is a deeply spiritual experience for me and this day was perhaps the most spirit filled run I have ever had.  I could feel the presence of God out there and that was all I really needed regardless of the place and time.

You’ve had a great year this year, placing 2nd at the USA Half Marathon Championships and 4th at the Boston Marathon.  With so many untested runners in this year’s field, which runners do you see being significant factors in the men’s race?

Out of respect for my fellow athletes I'd rather not throw any names out there.  There are so many guys that have a shot to make this team that it would be bad form for me to just mention a handful.  I know that the U.S. will be well represented in the marathon.  I just need to show up to the line fit, humble, and ready to pour myself out.  If I do this, I will be happy no matter what place I finish. 

Since your win in 2008, how has your training changed heading into 2012? Or have you maintained a consistent regimen?

My training since the last Olympic Trials stayed very similar over the next few years with minor changes here and there.  Terrence always did a good job with me at listening to my requests and making changes along the way.  Since I left the Mammoth Track Club a year ago my training has changed and continues to deviate more and more from my previous programs.  I certainly learned a lot from Terrence and apply many of his workouts and training methods in my training today but I experiment more with new and fresh training.  I pray about my training daily and try and listen to what my body craves, in terms of workouts.  I rest more.  I stress less about times in workouts.  I operate with greater flexibility and freedom.  I pull on other advisers as sounding boards when I have questions and I continue to learn.  Always maintaining a spirit of receiving advice and criticism with grace is something that is very important to me.  In general, I see running as a simple, beautiful act.  I think at times I over think things when really I just need to approach training and racing as I did when I was a kid, with a fun, stress-free, childlike attitude.  

Recently, it was announced that you will be racing in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. How does your participation affect your preparation for the Olympic Trials?

I am very excited to be competing in Chicago, not only for the opportunities that I'll have in Chicago to compete against the best marathoners in the world and to run fast but also in how it will set me up for the Trials.  The timing of Chicago before the trials couldn't be better.  I usually begin my marathon prep 12 weeks before my marathons.  I will have two weeks break and then 12 weeks to prepare.  It should be ideal.  

What factors did you consider when making your decision to compete in Chicago?

I looked at my career at large.  My biggest goals are London 2012 so I planned back from there.  I obviously have to make the team first in January, which I am in no way taking lightly, but I also want to be responsible to the U.S. marathoners.  For me, I only want to be on that team if I am well prepared to go for a medal.  In an effort to be well prepared I feel that beyond making the team in January I have some things to work on as I prepare for and race the Chicago marathon. 

Have you had the chance to review Houston’s course? What are your thoughts?

Yeah, I raced the half marathon there this year and loved the course and environment.  The whole time I was out there I was picturing myself running the Olympic Trials there.  I love to race in Houston and have a great history of success there.  From what I understand they altered the course to take out some of the hairpin turns they had in the course to simulate the Olympic Marathon course.  I am glad they took our feedback with humility and were willing to change the course. The turns would have been very difficult to manage if it were a full marathon distance.  The new course should run fast and fair. 

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What are your thoughts on the men and women running together this year?

It should be fun.  I don't know the specifics, like if we are starting together or not, but I think it will add a lot to hype the marathon, especially with all the talented runners competing.  

Can you tell us a little about The Hall Steps Foundation?

Sara and I are really excited to be a part of Steps.  Steps is all about runners joining the same team to fight poverty together through running.  Its added a lot of value to my career to be a part of something special.  We are changing the world one step at a time, much in the same way it takes one step at a time to train for or race a marathon.  We are working on some special projects at the moment, like partnering with a fellow runner, Wesley Korir (who is a two time LA Marathon Champion), to build a hospital in Kenya.  We have also done work with kids running programs in both New York and Chicago.