How will Ryan Hall do at FLORA London?

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Last year, the bets were on. Ryan would totally blow up. Ryan would kick butt. Ryan would run a decent marathon. He was running a marathon too early! What about his 5k and 10k speed? What about his 59:43 for the half marathon?

Well, his race in FLORA London last year started to get people excited. And then, his domination of the US Olympic Marathon Trials had geeks drooling. So, just how well will Ryan Hall do in London this year? This blogger has some ideas....

For a kid whose first run was a fifteen mile run around his hometown of Big Bear, the marathon seemed a natural.

Stay with me here. Way back in 1986, I ran the Winter series of races in Central Park in New York. There was a ten miler, an 8k and finally, a twenty miler. I remember running the twenty miler, which was four laps of the park. There were about 150 in the field and each lap, as the course become snowier and snowier, more people dropped out. I think I may have finished tenth or so, and I remember thinking, this was one tough course.

So, now move to twenty-one years later. I am on the US Olympic Trials marathon course, standing at the ten mile point. Rushing by me comes Dathan Ritzenheim, Abdi Abdirhaman, Meb Keflizighi, Dan Browne and Ryan Hall. In this Nike team was one lone ASICS runner. I kind of felt sorry for Ryan and the group pounded on by. It was quiet, yet it was violent. Here were five guys fighting to make the Olympic team, with all of their might.

On the next lap, I watched Ryan take off, pushing miles 15, and 16 and then it was over. I remember noting, how long can he keep this up? Ryan Hall proved that day that he is the next great American marathoner.

Racing sparingly since then, Ryan took second in the US Winter Cross Country Championships. And now, he is in London, less than two days before his third marathon. Just how well will he do?

For a distance runner, Ryan has a broad range. HIs 1,500 meters, 3:42.70, was just after his senior year of high school. His 13;16.03 for 5,000 meters, was his third in the US Outdoors in 2005. His 10,000 meters was run last March 2007, just before the London marathon--he ran a 28:07.93 during a very high mileage week. And his half marathon, which broke Mark Curp's American record, is 59:43.

The kid is no longer a kid. Married to Sara Bei Hall, a prominent distance runner in her own right, Ryan trains with Terrance Mahon, one of the truly consistent and thoughtful American distance coaches. I would never bet against Terrance. He does not bring athletes to races unprepared. Ryan Hall would not be here if he could not run fast.

The London bookies are giving 12-1 odds on Ryan winning here. I do believe that may be a bit early, but I do believe that Ryan will run well here on Sunday.

One thing we know about FLORA London-fast and furious finish. The men and women will run quick and kick like a track race with two miles to go and a then a final sprint with 300-600 meters to go.

Ryan Hall has great speed. I am picking him for the top three, with a time of 2:06.35. I think that he will be with the pack of six about 40 kilometers when it picks up, and quickly drops to four, then three, then a test of wills over the last six hundred meters.

Ryan Hall and Terrance Mahon are here to run well. But they are here for something much, much more important. Mahon knows that, in Beijing, the athlete will be tested like never before. Running in heat and humidity, with the pressure of an Olympic race on the line does strange things. Many will drop out in Beijing as soon as they know they are our of medal contention, waiting for a fall marathon.

Mahon and Hall know that the ultimate goal for this year is an Olympic medal. Gettin dirty in London, mixing it up with the big guys in the final five kilometers will callous Hall for Beijing.

In observing Ryan Hall, I think we get what we see, in one light. Ryan is easy going to a point. He is a distance runner, who has goals besides running. This is a segment of his life. He has goals to achieve and he is focused on them. We saw that in New York in November. We will see that drive on Sunday in London and next August in Beijing.

How big can Ryan Hall be? As 2004 gold medalist Stefano Baldini of Italy noted this week, Ryan Hall is the next great one in the marathon.

Baldini should know.

Ryan Hall has the tools to excel at the marathon. He has the mindset to excel at the marathon. He has a coach he believes in, he has a wife and family that he both loves and gets support from,and he has a team of friends to train with, to take off some of hte stresss. He also has a life outside of his sport and strong beliefs in something besides his running. All of these things, these intangibles should lead one to believe, that besides the enormous talent of Ryan Hall, there is the runner there, who wants to run with the best and come out on top. His day will come.

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