Updated November 9, 2011
Nicely done piece by our friends at Trackfocus (http://trackfocus.com/
I was there when, I felt, Phil Hersh went over the line. A superb journalist, sometimes, Phil gets a bit too involved in the story. What he was trying to say was that, in the world of 2:03 and 2:05 marathons, a 2:08 marathon with someone as talented as Ryan Hall is just not indicative of what Ryan can do. Instead, it came out as a bit of a dig. His recent comment on Ryan Hall not being Meb Keflezighi is just continuing a line of action that should not be acceptable behavior between a journalist and an athlete.
Here is my take. Ryan Hall is one of the most talented American marathoner we have ever seen. The guy can run a 2:03, perhaps a faster, if and when he gets it all together. The big question is whether he can put it all together on his own. The coaching with a group of colleagues, including one named God, is not a joke. For Ryan, it may work out.
My worry is this: Many elite athletes who dumped or lost coaches at the height of their careers have told me that, in retrospect, they needed someone there to help guide them. Ryan seems to find someone to run with, accompany him with his training and his relationship with his view of the higher being is not to be trifled with. From my time in the seminary, it might be called discernment. Self discovery through good and bad training days can be fruitful. I just don't want those days of self discovery, for Ryan Hall, to be at an Olympic Trials or Olympics.
Ryan Hall did something fantastic at Chicago-he stayed back and tried to run a conservative race. Ryan learned that for him, that may not be the way to race. He may have to engage, relax, engage, relax, engage. That is how Ryan Hall will run a 2:03. That is also how he could medal.
Phil Hersh writes with his heart. He also, like many us, speaks with his heart. Sometimes, as well know, those kind of things get us into trouble. You have seen an example of that here. Whatever the case, it should be discontinued.
Phil Hersh is right about one thing: Ryan is no Meb Keflezighi, and Meb, is no Ryan Hall. Thankfully, we have both in the sport. Ryan is one of our fastest ever. They are two different types of racers. Ryan Hall races like many of the Kenyans and Ethiopians. His ability to handle the up and down pace in a marathon will be the reason he runs a very fast marathon one day. His 2:04:55 was not a fluke.
Meb Keflezighi is the best championship marathoner we have had since Frank Shorter. Totally different make up in Meb. His ability to run well in New York, with its tough course, and this year, the lack of pace makers allowed a championship type race to develop. His sixth place at ING NYCM, with a pb at 2:09:13, and his Linda Blair episode after 23 miles (reference to the Exorcist), should also be some kind of record. After the race, a bit, sore, Meb laughed and help his press conference.
Ryan and Meb are two of the best American long distance runners we have had. They have their co racers respect, and we should see both of them do well in the upcoming Trials races in Houston.
I always look forward to reading Phil Hersh's work, as when he is on, he nails it like no one else. This Phil/Ryan deal is not good for anyone, and it is not good for the sport.
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