A Day that changed Ryan Hall's Life

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Ryan Hall is now in a different class. His fifth place in 2:06:17 on Sunday, April 13, 2008 has made him a global star in a global sport. Hall is now the second fastest American EVER with the third best performance. Not bad for a kid out of college for four years. A journey is never as easy as it looks, but the challenges give one more to savor. Let's consider a day that changed Ryan Hall's life....

On Sunday, April 13, 2008, Ryan Hall went from a very good American marathoner to a global marathoner. That metamorphosis took two hours, six minutes and seventeen seconds. Hall battled a group of the world's best marathoners, in a field of 35,013 starters, for the better part of two plus hours. In the end, Hall had a personal best by two minutes and seventeen seconds, and he changed his life...

Ryan Hall is a very good runner. In high school he ran a 4:06 mile as a junior, and a 3:43.70 for 1,500 meters as a senior. In college, his freshman and sophomore year, Ryan did okay, not great. In fact, he even considered giving up running.

In his senior year, Ryan ran a 13:16.03 for 5,000 meters, taking third in the USA outdoors. He also won the NCAA 5,000 meters. After college, Ryan had a couple of up and down years, like all distance runners. He was searching for his event.

In the third year he worked with Terrance Mahon, Ryan broke the American record for the half marathon with a 59:43 at Chevron Houston. Ryan had broken the twenty plus year old record of Mark Curp, a distance runner who churned up the roads a generation before.

Hall's first marathon, which this blogger witnessed, was a revelation. Many were second guessing Hall and Mahon. The thing was, Ryan ran 2:08:34 in his debut and he had stayed in the race until 24 miles! The last two miles were agony, but he held on and ran a very impressive race.

This past fall, Hall ran the US Olympic marathon trials in Central Park and became legend. His flight from his pursuers became a ten mile victory celebration as Ryan Hall showed that even the toughest, most sadistical course designer could not find a course that would challenge heart and soul . Ryan's response was to run a 4:32 mile, then a series of miles in the 4:45 range as he bounded around the five plus mile loop course!

And now, Sunday, April 13, 2008. Ryan Hall went with the elite field as the two pacesetters took the crew through 14:21 for a 5k, 29:10 for 10k, 44:00 minutes for 15k and here's the catcher-62:16 for the half marathon.

It was at this time that Ryan Hall, sensing that he had run a 4:45 mile, let the pack go, knowing that it was a little too rich for his feeling at this time. Sensing that the lead pack, which had dropped from twenty to seven, was slowing down, Ryan Hall battled back into the lead pack by 35 kilometers.

This is 22 miles or so into the marathon. This is where all marathoners become mortal. Ryan Hall, battled one, fighting to the finish line with Emmanuel Mutai of Kenya, who finished fourth, in 2:06:15 to Ryan Hall's 2:06.17, who finished fifth! Ryan Hall nearly dropped after the finish-he was spent. He had put his all into the race....

After his race, Ryan Hall told his coach, Terrance Mahon that " I what we have to correct." And so did Terrance, " Ryan is capable of running an even paced two hours, five minutes for the marathon right now. Today, they ran an erratic pace, up and down in the marathon. I know what he has to do now to prepare."

In watching Terrance Mahon, one could see the brain working, and a slight smile come on his face. Both student and coach were proud, probably in shock but amazingly proud.

Later in the evening, Ryan was with his wife, Sara, an excellent runner herself, his parents and grand parents after the awards dinner. He was starting to take it in, relaxing a bit. What a difference a year makes! The rube is now a three marathon veteran!

Ryan told me, about two hours after the race, that he was fine. He was very happy with his race and his time.

As we finished our conversation, Ian Stewart, 1972 Olympic bronze medalist at 5,000 meters, put out his hand and congratulated Ryan on a race well run.

Ryan Hall smiled, and a few minutes later, returned to shake Ian's hand again. The smile on Ryan's face said it all: a race well run, a battle fought, and the recognition of one who had been there, done that.

Now, Ryan, some hard won rest, and on to Beijing.

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