Ryan Hall may be the most talented marathoner ever seen in the U.S. Since his venture onto the roads in 2006, Ryan Hall has had great races and some not so great. In 2012, we saw moments of brilliance stopped by moments of injuries. Ryan Hall’s most telling comments in this interview regards what would happen if he could train healthy for a year.
Ryan Hall ASICS Athlete
RBR, # 1. How did you get started in the sport?
Ryan Hall: I grew up playing baseball, basketball and football and really wanted to pitch in the major leagues one day. The problem was I was really small and underdeveloped for my age so despite all my practice I wasn’t really all that talented of a baseball player. I didn’t run much growing up except for the occasional mile run in gym class, until one day in eight grade when I felt like God was giving me an idea to try and run around the lake in my hometown. The following Saturday I laced up my basketball shoes for a very long and painful 15 mile run around the lake with my Dad. I have been running ever since.
RBR, # 2. What was your high school experience in sports like?
I was going to still try out for the high school baseball team in the spring of my freshmen year. Even though I was training all year for running track (we didn’t have a cross country team at my high school until my Dad started one the following fall…I don’t even think we knew cross country existed) but I figured I could do both baseball and track at the same time. However after my first day in tryouts I decided that if I really wanted to be a great runner I needed to focus on one sport and one sport only. I think that thought came from my Dad, who was drafted in the major leagues as a pitcher coming out of both high school and college, telling the story about his growing up and coming to a point in his high school career when he decided that if he wanted to be truly great at a sport then it could be just one, or he could mediocre in multiple sports. I guess we all can’t be like Bo!
RBR, # 3. What were your best marks in high school?
Ryan Hall: According to Wikipedia: Hall came on to the running scene as a high school junior. He graduated from high school in the same year as Dathan Ritzenhein and Alan Webb, behind whom he finished in the 2000 Foot Locker Cross Country Championships.
Hall was the California state cross country champion during his junior and senior seasons at Big Bear High School. He finished third at the Foot Locker Nationals in Orlando during his senior season, also set the Mt. SAC course record in 2000. In track, he was the National Scholastic mile champion in his junior season at 4:06.15, and was the CIF California State Meet champion in the 1600 meters during his senior season with a state record time of 4:02.62, and won the state title during his junior season in the two-mile at 8:55.12.  Hall competed at the Peregrine Systems U.S. Open at Stanford in the 1500 meters, running 3:42.70, and at the 2001 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
RBR, # 4. If you could do anything over in college experience, what would that be?
Ryan Hall: Well, thats a great question. I guess I wouldn’t do anything different because it was those experiences that lead to some of my biggest breakthroughs both in college and after college. My college experience was really hard on multiple levels and it wasn’t always fun but it made me who I am today so I don’t think I would change anything. Now if you ask me what I learned in college I would have a different answer. I would say I learned to be better at managing change. I learned to be like bamboo, to bend but not break. Up to that point in my running I was in a very different scenario. In high school I did my school work and I trained and that was it. There was nothing else. Then in college all the sudden school got a whole lot harder and I had to manage all these changes that come with living on my own, like trying to sleep in a loud dorm, managing traveling to meets, my social life, my nutrition and training with a team. I “broke” a lot during those first 3 1/2 years and my running suffered however, by the end of my senior year I finally was figuring it out and my running quickly came back around to where it should have been all along.
Ryan Hall, 2010 B.A.A.Boston,
photo by PhotoRun.net
5. What were differences between high school and college track for you?
Ryan Hall: Its obviously much more competitive, which changes everything. Rather than having these early meets where you can be out of shape and still win and gain confidence you have to learn to get confidence from your early races even if you don’t win. I had to learn how to build momentum even if I wasn’t running really fast really early on in the season. So much of running is about momentum. I never even qualified for NCAA national championships outdoors until my senior year. I was finally able to build that confidence by working out with my teammate Ian Dobson everyday and piggy-backing off his momentum and confidence until I had my own.
RBR, # 6. What were your biggest experiences in college track?
Ryan Hall: I would have to say when Ian and I went 1-2 in the NCAA national championships in the 5k. That was a special moment because it was our goal from early on the season. We had been working on a plan with Coach Gerard (who is an amazing coach by the way…I credit him with really helping me turn things around in college) to try and go 1-2 and practiced some different tactics. For example, in the PAC 10 championships we were racing against Robert Cheseret who was one of our biggest rivals to try and go 1-2 and tried to pull away by running a 60 second lap every 3rd lap or so and then trading off the lead between us. Well, we tried that and with one lap to go Robert absolutely lit us up! We learned that didn’t work and practiced a new tactic, which was simply to run to our strength of running a fast time. We switched off taking the lead to try and run as fast as possible. When race day came, lucky for us, Matt Tegencamp and Chris Solinsky were game to help us make the race fast, then Brent Vaugn helped make the race go as well so we didn’t have to lead the whole race, only the second half. Once we had a couple of laps to go and had opened up a substantial lead on a very good field (there were 2 guys in that field that went on to break 13 minutes for a 5k and one future Olympic silver medalist in the 1500) I was almost in disbelief that this was happening. It was all playing out exactly as we had planned. Standing on the podium with Ian was very special because it was both of our last races in a Stanford uniform after being teammates for 4 years and we had worked very hard together and with Coach Gerard to achieve what we did that day.
RBR, # 7. How did you go pro?
Ryan Hall: I wasn’t expecting to go pro but after running 13:16 the week after NCAAs and qualifying for the world championships some doors opened for me. I had observed from my other teammates that going pro out of college is all about timing. When you are hot then the time is right. I actually had to finish up a couple of quarters of classes on-line the following year to get my degree.
RBR, # 8. What is biggest differences between pro and elite amateur?
Ryan Hall: The biggest difference is that something that was once a part of your life now becomes the center of your life. It is really nice in a lot of ways but it can also be a challenge. There is a temptation to overdo things. By that I mean there is a temptation to over-train and to take bad races and workouts a lot harder than you would have in college. Maintaining balance is the key. Having other stuff going on so that your happiness is totally dependent on running so that if an injury or a bad patch of running arises your whole world doesn’t come crashing down. Running a beautiful sport but I believe its essential that it remains just that, “sport.” I have to remind myself over and over again to not take things so seriously and that this is suppose to be fun.
RyanHall, 2011 Aramco Half Marathon,
photo by PhotoRun.net
RBR, # 9. What are your goals for 2013?
Ryan Hall: My main goal is have a healthy year. 2012 was not a good year for me, in terms of injuries. From an outside observer someone might think my body is just breaking down but that really isn’t the case. Somethings just pop up as a result of training hard (like plantar fasciitis) and some things are a result of increasing the training too quickly because of feeling pressure from an upcoming big race. I had a couple of little things that popped up that required me to try and rush into fitness, which resulted in bigger injuries. I learned a great deal about this time, especially that whether a race is coming or not rushing training never solves the problem. I think if I have an injury free year I could get in the best shape of my life.
RBR, # 10. If you had a high school track team in front of you, what main point would you want to get across about our sport?
Ryan Hall: Life is more about the relationships you make then the times you run or the titles you win. It’s really fun to pursue your dreams together and to work together for them. Make it your goal to help each other to push each other to make each other better.
RBR, # 11. What do you train in, and what do you race in?
Ryan Hall: I train in the ASICS GEL-Cumulus and I race in the ASICS GEL-Hyperspeeds. I actually had the honor of going out to Kobe, Japan to have ASICS design me a special pair of racing shoes that were made around my unique foot. They did a great job with the shoe and I loved them, however I ended up going back to the Hyperspeeds just because I liked them even better. They are a perfect racing shoe in my opinion.
Ryan Hall, RNR 2011 Virginia Beach,
photo by PhotoRun.net
RBR, # 12. What does a typical day of build up training look like?
Ryan Hall: AM: 6 by mile at 4:30 with 3 minutes rest.
PM: 30 minute easy run.
RBR, # 13. What does a typical day of training look like during season?
Ryan Hall: Well, here is my hardest day prior to a marathon.
AM: 20 minute warm up then 15 miles at marathon pace (5 minute mile).
PM: 30 minute easy run.
RBR, # 14. Your favorite track athlete, past or present?
Ryan Hall: Jim Ryun
RBR, # 15. If you were not doing your event, what other event in track and field would you do?
Ryan Hall: 100 meters
Hall, Keflezighi, Abdirahman, 2013 HealthyKidney10k,
photo by Photorun.net
RBR, # 16. What is your favorite event to compete at?
Ryan Hall: Any major marathon
RBR, # 17. Do you have an inspirational quote?
Ryan Hall: “If its not fun its not worth doing it” -Mickey Hall (my Dad)
Ryan Hall, 2011 RNR Virginia Beach, photo by PhotoRun.net