The Ryan Hall Interview about Running With Joy and marathon running.
Ryan Hall is one of the best marathon runners ever in the United States. He currently holds the U. S. 1/2 marathon record and the second fastest U. S. Marathon time ever. In 2010, Hall finished fourth in the Boston Marathon. As he was training for this race, he kept a daily journal of his training and his thoughts about running. Now, this journal has been turned into a book titled Running with Joy: My Daily Journey to the Marathon. The book is more than just training information. Ryan is a devout Christan, and he talks about his relationship with God and running throughout the book. We caught up with him to talk about the book and other running related topics.
David Tiefenthaler – “Running With Joy” was an interesting title choice. Can you explain thedifference between “running for joy, and “Running With Joy” and why you chose this as the title?
Ryan Hall – Well, to be honest, I never thought of “Running For Joy.” I guess I would say I choose “Running With Joy” because joy is something that is always accessible to us not something we have to run after. Our choice is are we willing to remove everything in us that keeps the joy from coming out.
DT – The book details your first run all the way to your Boston Marathon preparation. Don’t you think it was kind of your destiny that you would run marathons since the first big distance run you ever attempted was 15 miles long?
RH – I think it was my destiny. God gives us all gifts and abilities and He certainly designed me to run. It took me a while to figure out that my gifting in running was for longer distances but once I did it was a sweet thing.
DT – You struggled the most with running in college. This is the case for a lot of runners. What advice do you have for someone starting their collegiate career? Is there anything you would have done differently in college looking back?
RH – Everyone’s path is different but I would just say to make your one delight in God. Sure, its good to enjoy running and there is nothing wrong with that but it can’t be the foundation of the joy in your life otherwise eventually you are in for some hard times. God is the only one who can supply lasting joy that is always accessible.
DT – During one training run, you say “I hate my job,” but then quickly retract this statement. I don’t think this is an unfair thought. Can you elaborate on why this thought sometimes crosses your mind?
RH – I guess because running is not always fun. It can be extremely hard and extremely frustrating at times but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have the opportunity to find joy in those difficult times. It just takes more energy.
DT – I was surprised with the amount of massage treatments you receive throughout your training. Is this still a major part of your routine?
RH – Thats funny. I actually backed way down on the amount of massage I got. I actually got 90 minutes of massage every day for the last 12 weeks leading up to the 2009 NYC marathon. Yeah, I get a lot of therapy and regular massage. It is a big recovery tool. I also do self massage everyday with a foam roller and other tools.
DT – One part where I laughed is when you stated, “The best cross training for a runner is running.” You went on to explain some cross training that can be beneficial, but do you think some people take to cross training a little too early, and really should be out there running?
RH – I realize that everyone is different but I know that the best guys in the world run as much as possible. There is always a time and place for cross training but I believe if you are healthy enough physically and mentally able the best training for running is running.
DT – I understand why would want to get away from Mammoth Lakes, CA because of the rough winters, but in the lead up to Boston in 2010, you traveled a lot. During the 14 weeks of training for Boston, you were in Phoenix, AX; Santa Rosa, CA; Palo Alto, CA, Boston, MA; Spokane, WA; Albuquerque, NM; Los Angeles, CA; and back to Boston, MA. In between a lot of these stops, you were at home in Mammoth Lakes, CA. Does travelling adversely affect your training? Wouldn’t it be easier to stick toone specific location, and only leave for big races?
RH – Yeah, it probably would be easier to stay at home but that’s not life. It is important for me to support my wife as she competes and I find that I do better when I am with her than when I am staying at home. Overall, I have learned how to be a more savy traveler and train effectively on the road.
DT – I know your goal with the Steps Foundation is to raise money to help feed the hungry. Besides purchasing the book, what is another way to support the cause?
RH – People can run any race anywhere and raise funds to support the exciting projects we are working on. Also, people can find creative ways to get involved. For me if I can build relationship between the poor and the not poor then that is as much of a win as getting dollars to fund the projects.
DT – In your book, you describe feeling God’s presence a lot when you are running. Why is that? Do you feel Him when you are doing other activities like a hobby of yours, fishing?
RH – Oh yeah, I can feel God’s presence in a variety of different activities. God is always with me. It is just that when I run it is something that I believe I was created to do and I get a ton of pleasure from it and God’s presence seems particularly strong to me.
DT – You mentioned the theory that you spend 10% more energy leading a race instead of following it in the book. However, you list some great reasons to counter this argument in the book. Could you share a few reasons why you think leading can actually help a runner during a race?
RH – Well, it all depends on what gets you excited. If you are excited in the lead than you will run better if you are nervious and uncomfortable then maybe it would be best not to lead.
DT – To me, sports are a celebration. It’s where you get to battle against others competitors, but once the event is over, we go back to our daily lives. I’m not nearly as strong in my faith as you, but I think God just likes us to have fun, and doesn’t intervene in sporting events. Does God reallypick have to pick a winner in a sporting event? Can’t He just watch and enjoy the competition?
RH – This is a great question and one that I addressed in the interview I included in the book. My answer is that I don’t know if God intervenes in actual sporting events. I know He can if He wants. I know that He is accessible to us all and I know that athletes are at their best when they are running with their spirit as well as with their mind and body. I am not sure if He intervenes in every sporting event. It certainly seems like He has intervened in some sporting events from what I have experienced and witnessed but it is something that will remain a mystery to me.
DT – Some people might see your book, Running With Joy as a marathon training manual. Is that okay with you, or do you hope they get more out of what you wrote?
RH – I hope that people can relate to my journey and find a way to have joy in their running no matter if they are having the race of their life or having an off day. I am still learning to do this myself.
DT – In the 2010 Boston Marathon, you let the leaders go a couple of times. You were able to cover the first early move, but the second time, they were able to pull away. Have you ever considered putting in a surge later in a race, or prepare a move like this to try and separate from the pack? Is this race tactic something you are considering for future marathons?
RH – I don’t know. You have to have the fitness and energy behind you to be able to surge. In both of my first two runs I wasn’t in a physical prepared position to throw in any surges. I am hoping to be in the shape of my life this spring and if I am then I will consider putting in some surges but you can’t surge with what is not there.
DT – The marathon is such a brutal race. Most professional marathon runners only run in two big races per year. Is this frustrating, knowing that you only get a couple of chances per year to compete compared to running competitively in track?
RH – It makes you want to hit it right on the right day. It makes life exciting.
DT – Did the rough weather in Mammoth Lakes influence your decision at all to leave the Mammoth Track Club?
RH – No. I can deal with the cold. I never understood why we trained there in the winter since we can train anywhere in the world but it was other factors that played into it. Mainly, I wanted to live more by faith on a day to day basis.
DT – You don’t have an official coach now, but who are some of the people that help advise you on your training and racing?
RH – I have a variety of people. Too many to list.
DT – Most top runners have a feeling how fast their maximum time is – how fast they are able to go under perfect conditions and preparations. When you ran your personal best in the marathon, where did you think your limit was or is?
RH – I have still yet to answer that question. When I do you will know.
DT – What was the difference before your personal best race and the last couple of years when times have not quite reached that. Can you pinpoint something in your training that has changes, looking back? Volume, intensity, structure?
RH – I think I have been trying to hard and overtraining. I am resting more.
DT – Cross country is one of the most exciting and underrated sports there is. Would you ever be willing to be a part of a World Cross Country Championships team? This is just a dream of mine, but would you be on a super team to raise the profile of XC even though you don’t enjoy running on grass? XC takes all the best runners in the world at different distancesand puts them in the same race. Imagine you running with runners from the U. S. like Ritzenhein, Solinski, Webb, Keflezighi, Lagat, and Rupp. We really have a lot of talented runners. What would it take to make that happen?
RH – I don’t know. XC is hard and a fun sport but not really where my heart is at right now.
DT – A simple story you shared early in the book to me was the most powerful. I’m a teacher, and most teachers constantly tell our students the value of hard work. The students don’t really grab onto this message from us, because they think it is just part of our job. You described a daywhere you went to speak at a school and your message was, successdoesn’t mean never failing; it means getting back up. You didn’t feel as if the message got through, but then you ran with the students. A young kid was running with you, fell down, but got back up and raced back to the front. Please keep spreading this message.
Thank you for your time Ryan, good luck with your book, Running with Joy: My Daily Journey to the Marathon and I wish you the best of luck in your future races!