Ryan Hall: Running Wild, the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Interview by Larry Eder

Hall_RyanWellsley-Boston11.JPGRyan Hall, 2011 BAA Boston Marathon, photo by PhotoRun.net

A very relaxed Ryan Hall greeted the media at the press conference for the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Here are my thoughts on this truly talented runner, who runs best when he is unfettered:

Ryan Hall, arguably, the most talented American long distance runner in our sport, continues his quixotic journey to marathon greatness. Having run a 2:08.24 debut at the 2007 Virgin London Marathon, Hall showed that his 13:16.03 5,000m speed could be used to good use over the classic distance of 26.2 miles. Hall's 10,000m time, run during a 120 mile week, is 28:07.93. With six months focus, Hall could run close to 27 minutes on the track, in my humble opinion. A graduate of Stanford University, and a fine high school runner (California CIF Champion), Hall was a 5,000m NCAA champion in 2005.

Hall woke most people up in 2007 when he destroyed the US half and 20k record of one Mark Curp, with his blazing 59:42 victory at the Houston Half marathon. In 2008, Ryan ran with the leaders until 40k, finishing fifth in 2:06.17, the second all time US marathon time, just behind Khalid Khannouchi's AR of 2:05:38.

HIs run at the 2008 Olympic marathon trials, was another example of the absolute talent this young man possesses. Ryan Hall ran a 2:09.02 on the loop course in New York City's Central Park to take the win. His victory was only soured by his friend, Ryan Shay's death during the race.

Beijing was, as Ryan has told us, " a learning experience". He finished tenth, his worst finish in the 8 marathons he has run, running 2:12.33. In 2009, Ryan ran 2:09.40, finishing third in his first BAA Boston Marathon. That fall, Ryan ran 2:10.36 for fourth.

In 2010, Ryan ran the Boston Marathon in 2:08.34, finishing fourth. He pulled out of 2010 Bank of America Chicago marathon, citing fatigue. Ryan Hall, who had been traveling and racing a lot, just was not racing well. He decided to make a change in his training group, Mammoth TC, and his coach, Terrance Mahon, who had coached him to his marathon success.

Ryan Hall maybe just needed some change in his environs or his training life. He finished second in January 2011 at the USA half marathon championships, held in Houston, Texas as part of the Aramco Houston Half Marathon.  Ryan Hall, who sported a beard before the race, shaved it off and told RBR and assembled media that he had noted, on USADA forms that his coach was "god". While he did make some light of this, Ryan Hall was serious, and while some doubted his focus on the marathon or his sanity, some keen observers realized that, perhaps, just perhaps, Ryan Hall needed some changes. 

Proving his doubters wrong, Ryan Hall, at his next race, the 2011 BAA Boston had him finished fourth in an jaw dropping 2:04:58, an all time best for an American, but, not a record based on a net elevation drop that does not fit IAAF nor USATF rules.

Ryan Hall runs "as the spirit moves him". He will charge to the front, and drop back, and charge again. " What looks like charging is really me running even pace, " noted a thoughtful Ryan Hall.

Whatever it is, Ryan Hall was back as the top US male marathoner. And his performances in Boston was at the right time, as there had come, over the past 18 months, some doubters to his seriousness of purpose and his focus on the prize.

The 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Press conference had a very relaxed and thoughtful Ryan Hall. Ryan has raced four times since 2011 Boston: a 4:17.2 road mile, good for 13th at the Mediatronic TC 1-Mile (05/12/11), a seventh at the high altitude Bolder Boulder 10k in 30:30 (05/30/11), a seventh at the Peachtree 10k (07/04/11) in 29:16, and a fourth place at the Virginia Beach RNR half marathon (09/05/11) in 1:03:02.

Ryan Hall was quite talkative about the upcoming race and his training leading up to Chicago:   "This is big for me.  This training has been really good, but there are still things to improve. I tend to learn a lot from my racing. I am feeling good. I learn from all of my races. My training has been going really well, I am feeling good and snappy. The tempo runs have been good for me during this buildup. As I was cooling down for my last workout, I felt good about my training, I saw some things that I could have done differently in my training.  I will learn a lot from this race. You learn about how your body reacts to both training and racing. " noted Ryan.

Ryan talked about how he focuses on his recovery and how he has upped the quality of some of his workouts. " I take every seventh week and super chill out. I do only one workout a day, and cut down my quality. I also take one day off a week, so my mileage is about 100 miles a week, as I do my easy days really easy.  It's like the Bible notes about farmers, how many would let their fields lay fallow during the seventh year. " Ryan has adapted what he has learnt from the Bible to his training.

In terms of his quality days, " I have gone from 10k of to 20k in my speed work, doing 1k repeats in three minutes with a three hundred meter job. I do this on a loop in Mammoth (California), in about three minutes, so, with warm up and cooldown, this is about fifteen miles in 5:20 per mile pace. That's pretty tough." noted Ryan Hall. If one considers that Ryan is running at about six to seven thousand feet, Hall's talent just comes gushing out , once again. The guy is so talented, it is scary.

Ryan Hall also admitted that his present advisers include more than last year's note on God. ' I have several advisers, my father is one of them. I appreciate the help of my team. It means a lot. " He also paid some tribute to his wife, Sara Hall, who he shares much of training discussions with. They seem quite supportive of each others' training.

He also noted that he does most of his training, except for warm up and cool downs, on his own. " I like warming up and cooling down with people, but I like to do  the hard workouts by myself."

In speaking to Ryan Hall, it seems to me, that in that solitary running, he has found his muse. Hall trains hard, and by himself, sometimes without a watch, as he has to listen to whoever his drummer is.

Ironically, just before the Hall interview, I interviewed Renato Canova, who trains many of the best Kenyan runners. Canova noted that  the best Kenyan runners make no excuses and train, "wild", meaning with some abandon. He noted that the great Italian runner, Stefano Baldini was like that, and that Carlos Lopes was like that.

Ryan Hall trains and runs "wild". It is, in many ways, his creative spark flying down the 26.2 miles of macadam as he thrills and terrifies us. Ryan Hall, is a wild beast, and for the sake of American marathoning, let's hope that he continues to listen to his muse or muses.

The challenge for Ryan Hall is not the other runners, it is how he controls his muse or his creative nature. Someday, Ryan Hall will put it all together, and a time of two hours, three minutes, or perhaps faster, will be a dream of the past.

Just how fast will Ryan Hall run on Sunday at the 2011 Bank of America Chicago marathon? I am not sure, but if the conditions are willing, Ryan Hall may use the 26.2 miles of the city of Chicago for his most brilliant marathon yet.

Ryan Hall, 2011 USA Half Marathon, Aramco Houston Half Marathon,
photo by PhotoRun.net

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