Meet the Olympian: Ryan Hall

Ryan Hall, who finished with a time of 2:09:30, celebrates after competing in the U.S. Marathon Olympic Trials in 2012.

As part of Metro’s ongoing coverage leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games in London, we’re introducing readers to the athletes who will be representing the United States. Previously: fencer Daryl Homer, gymnast Aly Raisman, swimmer Ryan Lochte, distance-runner Molly Huddle and equestrian Karen O’Connor.

Ryan Hall was born to run. We get tired just watching him — Hall competes in marathon after marathon with breath-taking speed, and always finishes wanting more. London will be his second Olympic experience — he placed 10th in the marathon during the Beijing games, though he had won the race during the U.S. Olympic trials.

The Big Bear Lake, C.A. native didn’t start running competitively until he was a junior in high school. During his college career at Stanford University, he was plagued by injury, but still managed to earn All-American honors twice and win the 5,000 meters at the NCAA Championship in 2005.

At the 2011 Boston Marathon, Hall ran the fastest marathon ever by an American, with an astonishing 2:04:58 time. Amazingly, he also holds the U.S. record for half marathon at 59:43.

Hall, now 29, prepares to run in familiar territory at the Olympic Games — he’s competed in the Flora London Marathon twice, placing seventh in 2007 and fifth in 2008. His 5’10″ inch frame, topped with sandy blonde hair, evokes machine-like stamina, as he maintains speeds for 26.2 miles that most of us would consider a full-on sprint. Metro caught up with Hall as he once again readies himself for Olympic glory.

Metro: In 2008, you placed tenth in the Olympic Marathon in Beijing. Are you hoping to place higher this year?
 
Hall: Well, I am proud of how I ran in Beijing because I maximized what I had on the day.  I did my very best in my preparations and in the race itself so I have nothing to hang my head about.  My goal is always to maximize my God-given potential on the day and if I do that I am happy.  It would be quite an honor to win a medal or to win the Olympics, but I can’t control how fast everyone else runs, I can only focus on maximizing my potential.  

Could you describe your typical training week? How often to you run the full marathon distance in training?
 
I rarely run the full marathon distance in training. I typically have long runs once every 10 days that vary from 20-26 miles. I usually only run the full marathon distance in training once before I race a marathon. I usually run between 12-23 miles per day, usually this is divided between one run in the morning and another run in the evening.  Then I spend a lot of time stretching, doing self therapy (like rolling on soft balls over tight areas in my back, hips, hamstrings, etc.)  Then I usually take a 90 minute “business meeting” (i.e. nap) everyday and then spend some time preparing healthy and tasty meals.  

What are your power foods? How often do you eat or drink during a race?
 
My power foods are Muscle Milk infused pancakes (of many flavors…my favorite is Cake Batter), BBQ Salmon, Kale, Avocado, and homemade sweet potato fries. I don’t eat during a race, but I do take in 6 ounces of Cytomax Performance drink every 15 minutes and then a couple of gels that are pre-mixed in water. We get our bottles that we turn in the night before the race that they set out on tables for us to grab every 5k.

Who will be your biggest competition in London this year?
 
Well, as everyone knows both Kenya and Ethiopia have very strong teams and will surely be a huge factor in the race.  With that said, often times the biggest challenge comes from unexpected competitors, so you have to be ready for anyone to make a move. I like to go into these races with an open mind and a flexible game plan.   

What do you think of London’s course? How have you prepared for it?
 
I am really excited for London’s course. I have run the London Marathon twice and so I know some of the course already. From what I have learned about the course, it looks to be narrow, windy and flat, which means we have the potential to see some very fast times. The crowd is going to be huge and going crazy so it will be hard for us not to run fast. It is going to be like running in the Tour de France. I can’t wait.  

What advice can you offer to runners who are trying to train for marathons? How do you get through the lows during a race?

We all go through rough patches out there. I like to think about the people I love when I am going through a tough moment. When I run out of love, I always run best.  
 
Have you imagined what it would be like to earn a medal this summer? How do you think you would react?

 
Yeah, I have thought a lot about what it would be like to win a medal in London. I day dream about it all the time. In fact, on my run today, I was just thinking about the feeling of crossing the finish line in London. It is going to be quite an accomplishment no matter what place I finish, but it would be a special honor to win a medal and have my medal presented to me during the closing ceremonies.   

Do you have any lucky charms before a race?
 
The only thing left to do on the starting line is to pray.


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