Interview by Jordan Schilit - February 27, 2009
It’s the 21st century: the mile is “in.” Well, who wouldn’t want to be the next Jim Ryun or Steve Scott or Alan Webb, especially if his high school PR is 4:02.62? But what if that runner had the courage to say “No,” realizing that he may be stronger in other areas of distance running?
Ryan Hall, a 26-year-old Stanford graduate, recently told me that he has “joined the club” of a different group of distance runners. The humble phenom realized that after disappointing collegiate performances in the 800m and 1500m, maybe the role of a middle-distance runner would be more fitting for some other individual. “I wanted the pride from excelling at a more prestigious event, such as the mile, but I wouldn’t realize my true strengths until after I had failed.”
Taking a step back, Hall still managed to produce All-American times during his high school and college track and cross country careers; however, it was the inconsistency throughout college that frustrated the young California native. “I wanted to be a miler and was stubborn with that decision, but I was eventually dissuaded with the lack of turnover required for even the 5K.”
Realizing his strengths truly fell in the longer distances, Hall now has the potential to become one of the greatest long distance runners of all-time, since he has already eclipsed the American record for the ½ marathon (59:43) and his current PR in the marathon – 2:06:17 – is just 2 minutes off the world record.
But Hall claims that though it may be nice to have American records or possibly a world record, “It’s not all about me. I want to leave a legacy with my running, hoping that there will be future young Americans that will surpass my records and propel American distance running to the next caliber.” Hall hopes that these young stars will have the confidence to run with the highest caliber runners, will be willing to fail, and will never give up until they have achieved greatness.
After a rough Olympic experience, Hall will race on February 28 at the Bank of America Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K. The newly popular face of American distance running will attempt to claim his second American record, hoping to improve upon his “unofficial” 42:21. Hall ran fast enough to break the American record en route to his half-marathon PR, but the 15K marker was not certified for official scoring.
“It will remind me of my high school days,” said Hall. “I will be running alone, but I enjoy the ‘me pushing me’ mindset during a race, since it helps me get into a solid rythym.” Hall has come to Tampa not for the international competition necessarily, but instead for a fast and weather-friendly course in order to run an honest effort. “I’m not eager to take Todd Williams’ record, especially since the Jacksonville course is much hillier than Gasparilla’s and usually has much tougher weather. Unless I shatter his time, I wouldn’t really feel like I got the American record, since we did not run the same course.”
Hall’s 15K race starts at 7:30 AM. Assuming the weather continues to be pleasant in the Bay Area, Hall feels that his performance Saturday morning will be an excellent indicator of where his fitness stands for the prestigious Boston Marathon on April 20th. The Gasparilla Distance classic 15K course has always produced speedy performances, including world record performances from 1980-1983; the winning time every year between 1980 and 1998 was under 44:00.
When I asked Ryan Hall, “How will you feel stepping up to the line, knowing it has been exactly 30 years and one week since an American-born distance runner has broken a World Record in any distance longer than the 5K?” He responded, “Since I was a child, I have always dreamed of getting a world record.” I then reminded him, “That was Bill Rodgers, you know.” He then replied, “It would be an honor. I will remember that when I hear that gunshot.”