SARA HALL REFLECTS ON HARD WORK AND MOTHERHOOD IN BUILD UP TO LONDON MARATHON
Running At Peak Form Into Her Late 30s, Hall Continues Lifelong Pattern Of Putting In The Effort
When the future of racing in 2020 looked bleak as the COVID-19 crisis swept the world last spring, Sara Hall didn’t lose hope.
“I started training for a marathon in faith, before I knew there would be any real competitions,” said Hall, who has been eager to finally move past her heartbreaking performance from February at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, where she dropped out at mile 22.
“It would have been easier just to hit the couch, but I set my mind on running a marathon, some way some how.”
Even if it meant racing 26.2 miles by herself, she said.
Ryan Hall, a two-time U.S. Olympic marathoner who retired in 2016, said his wife’s relentless competitive drive is one of his biggest challenges as her coach.
“She loves to train hard, but has a hard time taking extended breaks,” he said. “She is always ‘chomping at the bit’ to get back out there.”
When Hall heard that the London Marathon would host a highly secure, elite-only race amid the pandemic, she jumped at the precious opportunity.
On Oct. 4, she will face some of the world’s best marathoners, including defending London champion and world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya and U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials champion Molly Seidel.
“Getting into the London Marathon felt like such a reward for a lot of perseverance this year — being willing to put in the work on faith alone,” said Hall, 37. “It felt against all odds to get to toe the line in a world marathon major.”
‘Against all odds’ is a familiar theme for Hall, a mother of four who has posted the fastest times of her career well into her 30s, including a 2:22 marathon last year in Berlin, where she finished fifth. Last month, with two male pacers, she ran a personal best of 1:08:18 in a half marathon along the Row River Trail in south of Eugene, Oregon, making her the sixth-fastest American woman ever in that distance.
A former Foot Locker Cross Country National Champion in high school and distance standout at Stanford University, Hall has competed at the highest levels of distance running for two decades — a great accomplishment in itself.
“It’s definitely surprised me,” she said of her longevity in the sport. “I think it’s a lot of factors, but I think the biggest are being naturally durable and learning to be really mentally-emotionally resilient.”
Ten years ago, after disappointing results as a 1,500-meter and 5,000-meter runner on the track, Hall thought her elite running career was over. She credits her Christian faith and Ryan with convincing her she had more to achieve.
Since then, she’s not only moved up to and mastered the marathon distance, she’s done it while becoming a mother to four adopted sisters from Ethiopia.
“When we adopted them, I didn’t think I’d be able to keep competing, but instead I’ve improved every year since they’ve been here,” said Hall, who is using her race in London to raise money for homeless children in Ethiopia, where she and Ryan have spent a lot of time working on various causes.
“I get to model to (my daughters) so many character aspects I want to instill in them: picking yourself up after defeat, taking risks, hard work, commitment,” she said. “Running is the greatest teacher.”
Inspired by their parents, three of the Halls' daughters have become runners. The oldest, Hana, currently a freshman runner at Grand Canyon University, won the Division 2 Arizona Cross Country Championships last fall. Hana and Mia, 16, both ran with their mom at the half marathon in Oregon.
In addition managing her kids’ remote learning and getting in her workouts, Hall has made time to discuss the racial justice movements happening across the United States.
“I’ve told my daughters about George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor,” she said. “We’ve discussed the movement in the U.S. and the systemic racism over the last 400 years that is the backstory to these recent events. I personally have been learning a lot.”
Despite the world’s turmoil in recent months, Hall has maintained extraordinary focus on the road ahead.
In the London Marathon, which will be held on a closed-loop course around St. James Park, she hopes to snag a new personal best and would love to finally land on the podium, after finishing fifth at the Frankfurt and Berlin Marathons.
“I’m focused on having my best marathon yet,” she said.
posted Saturday September 26th