Sunday, October 23, 2011

Olympic Hopeful: Ryan Hall


Say Hall-ellujah! because today's Olympic Hopeful is the one, the only, the humble, the giving, the spiritual, the blonde-haired, bright-eyed, 29-year-old Ryan Hall.

Have you ever in your life spent some time watching famed greatness?  I have.  Twice.  And, to be clear, this is famed greatness; the greatness from famous people that you don't know.  I know plenty of great people, but that's the thing – I know them personally, and therefore have received and witnessed proof that they're great.

Sometimes, again, twice to be exact, you'll observe a famous someone.  And sometimes, as is the case with Ryan Hall, you'll see the oozing of "spectacular human being." This happened last November.  Ryan Hall was at the New York City Marathon expo signing posters.  (If you'll recall, I was able to get in on that NYC Marathon action.)  I didn't get a signed poster, but I watched this gentle, running giant for a good 30 minutes.  I watched him make eye contact.  I watched him smile shyly each and every time someone sent him a well-deserved compliment.  I watched him ask names and questions.  I watched him listen intently to each and every stranger that slobbered a "yer-so-awesome!" on him.  There was no arrogance.

If you know of Ryan Hall, and know of his grandiose statistics, you'd expect some arrogance.  Hall's personal bests include a 3:42.70 1500m, a 13:16.03 5k, and a 28:07.93 10k. His half marathon of 59:43, and last year's Boston, a ridiculously quick 2:04:58, have made Hall the fastest half-marathoner and marathoner in U.S. History.  He has plenty to be arrogant about.

But he's not.  He's a practicing Christian from a town called Big Bear California who went on to succeed as California's state cross-country champion during both his junior and senior years.  After high school, Hall ran for Stanford.  He is married to the lovely Sara Hall who is also a practicing Christian and professional runner.  The two have founded an organization called The Hall Steps Foundation "to take small steps towards the marathon goal of ending poverty."

In short, the Halls are definitely a duo I'd welcome to my hood at any time.  Prolly even feed 'em.

Being Christian is a huge part of Ryan Hall's life.  He used to think he was a runner that's Christian but has since evolved into a "Christian that runs."  In a Runner's World article, Hall explains that he didn't always run.  "My parents were strong Christians. I definitely believed, but I wasn't really strongly pursuing my faith. I was playing baseball, basketball, football--I was into, like, the cool crowd at school. And then one day traveling down the mountain to a basketball game, I got this random--I describe it as a vision, but you could call it an idea, whatever--this thing pops into my mind where I am looking out at Big Bear Lake, and I think, well, it would be a great thing for me to try and run around that."

So Hall ran around the lake and hasn't stopped running since.  "It was at that point that Jesus really became my best friend. That's when our relationship took off...and it was a direct result of him bringing running into my life."  He also said, "I believe I have a gift from God. But then I also have to train really, really hard. So I see it as being a good steward of the gift God's given's my obligation to God to develop this talent the best I can. So, I try and make that my focus rather than wanting to beat people. Not that it's not fun to win, because it is?"

In that same Runner's World article, Ryan Hall's sweet grandma insisted that the public know something. She said, "'I want you to know that this family prays, and prays for many things. That it will be a good race, that it will be a safe race, but they never?they never?' She stops now, holding her hand to her mouth as her eyes fill with tears. It takes her a moment to gather before she can speak again."

"'They never pray to win.'"

His family might not be praying for him to win, but I certainly am.  And I'll be prayin' (and hollerin') like mad on January 14th, 2012 in that little town called Houston.  Go Ryan Go!  I also have this super cool t-shirt that says "Hall-elujah!" over a silhouette of Ryan Hall.  It's rad.

You can follow Ryan on his blog or on twitter at @ryanhall3.

With that... I'd like to leave you with some snaps and quotes from the aforementioned blog.



"The question I try and ask myself when I consider whether or not to train more is what is my body craving and what is my body ready to absorb? Sometimes pushing harder is not the answer. It takes self control, confidence, and intuition to know when to train and when to rest, but when in question error on the side of being over rested."

"I am thankful that there are different seasons in life and training. I have learned to embrace each season realizing how important it is to allow the body, mind and spirit to fully cycle through each. My current season of marathon training is my favorite. I love the simple life of training and going after a goal with everything I have."

"I feel honored to be invited back to this years race and see it as a great opportunity for me and for all of us who are running."

"When I look back at a race I look at it first through the lens of a scientist and then through the eyes of an artist. What factors contribute to my performance? What things can I tweak or try out next time out? What good things were reinforced? What felt tired? What workouts do I need to do to be better prepared? How were my thoughts out there? Did I enjoy the race? These are all questions of the scientist.

"The artist in me looks back at the race and asks how does this race fit into the larger picture being painted? What things about my performance do I not understand? Did I do a good job of fully expressing me with whatever energy I had to give on the day? What new strokes can I try out next time?  There is always in tension in running between the scientist who wants to have an explanation for everything and the artist who is ok with not understanding all the mysteries of running, knowing that perhaps the next great performance may come from thinking outside the box. I have found that both the scientist and the artist are necessary in becoming a complete runner and processing the good, the bad, and everything in between on race day."

"When I look at a week I don’t see the necessity for mileage, I see the necessity for hard, quality workouts followed by adequate recovery and even making sure to over-recovering (if there is such a thing)."

"Mileage can be a good thing if it encourages us to run more, but not at the expense of recovery. I have certainly learned throughout my career that it’s not always necessarily he that runs the most mileage that wins the race."


Julia said...

Wow! Definitely a fan of this kid. What an inspiration. I love that he stays in tune with his body in all aspects: physically, mentally, and spiritually. How neat that he just loves running that much and feels inspired be a good steward of his gift. Thanks for giving me someone to cheer for.

Julia said...

P.S. You said in your last Olympic Hopeful post that Paul Petersen was the only Utahn to qualify, but Nan Kennard (my team mate from BYU) is from Bountiful, though she now lives in Boulder, Colorado. Not sure if that counts her a Utahn or not.

Jenn said...

Geez, you had me with the first photo! He's cute as a button!