Not content with being among the world’s top runners, Ryan Hall has also made a habit of breaking records. The young Californian’s meteoric rise to elite distance running has seen him smash the American half-marathon record.
The first fifteen miles
Ryan Hall was not always a sports star. He complained like most of his class mates in middle school when he had to run the mile in physical education. Nor was he, like many athletes today, spotted by a coach who recognised his talent and put him on the path to glory.
In a story not unlike the religious parables he reads for inspiration, Hall can pinpoint the moment when it all began. One day, while passing Big Bear Lake on his bike on the way to a basketball game, he was struck by a feeling that God wanted him to run.The first goal Hall set for himself was to run the fifteen miles around that lake. Since then, running has allowed him to find not only his true calling as an individual, but also a closer relationship with God.
Efficient running style
In the years that followed, Hall stopped playing other sports and focused solely on running. He trained throughout high school, coached by his father, who managed to build on Hall's neutral gait and endow him with an unusual but efficient running style.
Mickey Hall's methods were unorthodox yet strangely effective. One time, he resorted to tying Hall's upper arms to his body in order to curb his tendency to let his elbows loosen out too far, which was wasting energy. The result is a running style worth watching. He runs with his head straight, steady and erect, and the arms have minimal movement, hugging the body in a way reminiscent of some of his Kenyan competitors.
But the path has not always been easy. As with any runner, whether amateur or elite, there are always testing times and how someone deals with those can change them for better or worse. Hall's challenges came with his move to university. Removed from the structure and support of home life, Hall had difficulty maintaining the delicate balance between training, studying and all the other preoccupations that come with growing up and moving away.
Here was a young man who wanted more than anything to run successfully, but for the major part of his college years he battled with inconsistent performances and injury. He was the rising high school star that somehow rarely shone as brightly as expected. However, with the increased support of his girlfriend, and now wife, Sara (also an elite runner), he finally emerged with success in the fourth year of university.
Out of these character-building uni years, Hall also managed to forge a personal identity, independent of running. An 'all-or-nothing' kind of a guy, it is now recognised that he probably could have been anything – but he chose to be a runner.