Running With Joy

Running With Joy by Ryan Hall reviewed by

“…I’ve sought this joy my entire life as a runner but rarely have achieved it. Now, however, I believe that all people – athletes, businesspeople, parents, everyone – can have this joy regardless of what they do and how well they do it.”

Running with Joy: My Daily Journey to the Marathon details Ryan Hall’s training for the Boston Marathon in 2010. This is more than just a running log. Yes, you could purchase it out of curiosity to see what a world-class marathon runner puts himself through to prep for a marathon, but Ryan shares much more than that. Although the book flows chronologically from when he first started running to the Boston Marathon of 2010, it really has three different themes. The main focus is Ryan’s relationship with God and Running. The second aspect is the training he does leading up to the big race. The last part includes over 25 different tips on various running topics like cross training, weekly mileage, and energy food.

Ryan has always been very outspoken about his Christian faith. He is not afraid to share his beliefs, and “Running With Joy” is actually a celebration of his faith and relationship with God. Ryan wasn’t that happy with his running early in his career, but as he continued on his path, he tries to “run with joy” no matter what the outcome of a race or his training might be.

He talks about how God is such a large influence on his running even from the beginning of his running career. Saying God is a “large influence” might actually be understating Ryan’s beliefs. His first ever serious training run was at the age of 13. He ran 15 miles around Big Bear Lake in California. Ryan states, “I was suddenly overwhelmed with a crazy urge to run around the lake. The feeling is hard to describe – it was a vision from God, an unveiling, a seed He planted in me.”

The first chapter sets the stage for his training for the Boston Marathon in 2010. The next fourteen chapters are broken up week by week, starting with 14 weeks to Boston. As Ryan trains, he discusses how God is a big part of his training process. “I still want to win Boston, but I know that I have something much sweeter than that in Jesus.”

The book doesn’t gloss over the fact that training can be very tough. Ryan does struggle with running. One part that stood out is when Ryan was having a bad day. He simply states, “I hate my job.” Ryan then feels guilty about this and goes about his day, but he does struggle with his running and faith at times.

God is the focus of this book, but there is a lot of information on the training and day to day life of being a marathon runner. Some of the things that Ryan Hall puts himself through shows how tough being a professional runner really is. He battles through a poor showing at the Pheonix ½ marathon. He deals with an illness and some nagging injuries. Along the way, Ryan also has to travel to many different places for appearances and to be alongside his wife, Sara Hall, who is a professional middle distance runner.

One fact that that stands out is the mental grind that a runner has to endure. “The day-to-day life of a professional runner is not that glamorous.” Ryan’s days are pretty boring. Get up, eat, read the Bible, run, stretch, massage therapy, eat, nap, run, more massage, eat, go to sleep. Wake up the next day and do it again.

The workouts he puts himself through are pretty impressive, and he details how he feels as he goes through with them. There are tempo runs, long runs, intervals, easy runs, hill workouts, and much more. He traveled to Boston in advance to train on the course so he could develop a plan on exactly how to attack each section of the race. No one in there right mind should ever attempt to simulate the work that Ryan Hall does. Even if you do have aspirations to run as a professional, this is a journal, not a marathon guide. Be smart about your training, and just admire the work that professional runners put in.

The most helpful parts of this book for any runner would be all the sidebars. These are Ryan Hall’s running tips on various different topics. At the end of the book, there is an index of all 27 different running topics that Ryan Hall addresses.

Here are a few tips that caught my attention. For cross training, Ryan suggests, “The best cross training for a runner is running.” He does elaborate on this point, but the message is clear. Running is the best activity, but cross training is helpful for runners when injured.

Another subject that a lot of runners are debating about right now is stretching. Ryan states, “I don’t do any static stretching. I have found the best way for me to stay relatively loose and injury free is to incorporate dynamic and active stretching into my daily routine.”

Some of the other running topics Ryan addresses include rest, running in groups versus running alone, running on trails, track, and pavement, heart rate monitors and aerobic threshold, and much more.

Who would like this book?

This is the perfect book for a Christian runner. More specifically, this is perfect for a Christian marathon runner. Ryan Hall is so strong in his faith, he doesn’t separate running and his relationship with God at all. In fact, running is where Ryan finds peace with the Lord. Winning the Boston Marathon is always on his mind, but Ryan tries to calm his fears by trusting God. “My newfound freedom comes from trusting in God and enjoying His presence. In His presence nothing else matters.”

If you are not a devout Christian, you might not enjoy it cover to cover. Ryan doesn’t talk about running, and then talk about his beliefs. They are intertwined all the way through the book. This doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the money or time. The fourteen-week journal of his pursuit for a great race, coupled with Ryan’s running tips, make Running with Joy: My Daily Journey to the Marathon a great resource for any level of runner. Also, The proceeds of this book go towards the Hall Steps Foundation. This is a charity created by Sara and Ryan Hall. The goal of the Steps Foundation is to “take small steps toward the marathon goal of ending global poverty.”

– Reviewed by David Tiefenthaler

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