Olympic marathoner Ryan Hall takes time from vacation to talk running philosophy with local prep athletes
HEBER CITY — From the moment he first started running at age 13, Ryan Hall wondered what it would take to become an Olympic marathoner.
Nearly two decades later, he doesn’t have to wonder anymore.
Hall knows exactly what it takes because the 31-year-old California native has represented the U.S. twice (2008 and 2012) as an Olympic marathon runner. In his first visit to Utah, he shared much of what he’s learned from the sport — and how it’s blessed his life — with some Wasatch High athletes and a group of high school running coaches on Monday morning at a park in Heber City.
After taking them through a workout, including his favorite routines, he talked about reflecting on what he needed to reach sport’s biggest stage.
“The biggest thing that I had to have to get myself to the Olympics is resilience,” Hall said. “Getting back up time and time again. In running it’s not smooth. I’ve had way more really hard, bad races than I’ve had really good races. That’s what makes the really good races special.”
Then he shared with the teens a Bible verse that has helped him weather the ups and downs of sports.
“Though a righteous man falls seven times, he gets back up,” Hall said, paraphrasing Proverbs 24:16. “It’s going to ebb and flow; but it’s going to be worth it.”
Hall and his father, Mickey, were in Utah celebrating Mickey Hall’s retirement from nearly four decades as a teacher and coach. When a local high school coach asked them about holding a small clinic, they agreed to do so free of charge. While Ryan Hall worked out with the teens and a few coaches and local elite runners, parents took Mickey Hall up on his offer to talk sports philosophy under a picnic pavilion.
Mickey talked to parents about how to motivate their kids, when to push and when to encourage. Ryan Hall credits his father, who was his high school coach, with the foundation that allowed him to earn two state cross-country championships, a scholarship to Stanford and an NCAA national championship (5,000 meters), two trips to the Olympics and a nine-year professional running career that includes holding the U.S. half marathon record (59:43).
“He’s the one who got me into the sport, and he’s always encouraged me,” Ryan Hall said of his father. “He’s been my training partner, friend and coach.”
Ryan Hall said he’s benefited from great coaching throughout his life, and cautioned the young runners and their coaches about trying to copy his formula for success. Every runner is different, he advised, and each must find what works for them.
While the sport can be grueling and unpredictable, Mickey Hall said it is also the best way to help transform lives.
“Running is a discipline that helps turn (athletes) into better people,” he said. Mickey Hall cautioned the group to keep both success and failure in perspective.
“There are always more important things that running,” he said. “And if you’re not encouraging someone on your route, you’re making a mistake. This life is about relationships. It’s not about winning.”
Ryan Hall said he lives by two principles — love God and love other people.
“The accomplishments don’t follow us into eternity,” he said. “But the relationships we built, the people we’ve influenced, that lasts. And that’s where our focus should be — on our relationships. When you’re running as teams, become a family, encourage each other. It’s such a blessing to be able to do what we do.”