Much has been made about Ryan Hall’s post-retirement muscle-building routine, but the two-time Olympic runner is not done running.
After battling chronic fatigue for the final four years of his professional running career, Hall, 33, retired last year and started to rebuild his body through consistent weight training and an increase in daily protein intake. Now he’s started to add some casual running to his weekly regimen, both training with his professional runner wife, Sara, who will be competing in the 10,000-meter run on July 2 at the U.S. Olympic Trials, but also training for some new running-related endeavors of his own.
But, just to end any rumors or speculation, he’s not going to train to run a fast marathon again.
Lately, he’s gone back to his roots, running long trail runs in the mountains in preparation for the June 21 ASICS Beat the Sun event, a 140K six-person relay race around Mont Blanc in France, Switzerland and Italy. While there will be a fierce competition among the eight teams in the race, the primary goal for every team is make sure they reach the finish line in less than 21 hours, 35 minutes—the time between the sunrise and sunset in Chamonix, France, as a way of celebrating the summer solstice.
Hall says he’s been running modest mileage as of late, but he admits he’s not close to the fitness level that helped him run several fast half marathons and marathons in his prime, including his 2:04:58 PR at the 2011 Boston Marathon.
“I took several months off from running and didn’t run at all, but now I’m lacing up my shoes and going out and doing runs that I want to do,” Hall said Monday in Chamonix, where the Beat the Sun event begins and ends. “Trail running and being in the mountains is fun, and I’m to a point where I’m pushing myself out there because I want to push myself. It’s been a long time since I felt like that. It’s definitely rekindled my passion for running.”
Having grown up in Big Bear Lake, Calif., and trained on trails from time to time in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., Hall knows the unique challenges that running on mountain trails can present. He’ll run two of the hardest sections of the Beat the Sun event. His first leg will be a 13K section that crosses a massive snowfield between Trient and Champex, Switerzland, and has 4,500 feet of vertical climbing and descending. Later in the day, he’ll run a 19K mountain section that will send him over two 8,000-foot peaks and down a massive trail descent.
“I’ll run hard, because that’s what I like to do, but it will be fun,” Hall said. “I’ll be looking around and checking out the scenery of this amazing place.”
While Hall admits he doesn’t have the fitness he once had, he now tips the scales at 165 pounds—about 28 pounds heavier than his former racing weight. That’s because he’s doubled the amount of protein in his diet while also greatly reducing his carb intake. He loves the added strength he’s gained, especially in his hamstrings and glutes, and wonders if his career might have lasted longer had he not avoided weight training so much.
Hall says if he had to do it all over again, he’d focus on one fall marathon per year and spend the spring racing on the track and building strength and explosive power in his legs.
Still, he’s fine with what he accomplished and happy to be retired.
“It’s definitely easier mentally now because I’m not going through all of the disappointments I was going through,” Hall said. “I feel more stable now, whereas when I was trying to make a go of it I would start to get fit and get to about 80 percent and I would just crash into a long, gradual stretch of feeling terrible and not being able to finish runs. It’s nice to not have that going on any more. I feel good on my runs now. Now if I’m running a 7-minute pace or a 7:30 pace or an 8-minute pace, it doesn’t matter. It’s nice not to have to worry about it being perfect.”
Hall says he’s been a little bit intrigued by ultrarunning, but he doesn’t necessarily envision himself getting into a situation where he’ll be racing ultras. However, he says he’s intrigued by adventure runs like the Grand Canyon and he’s always been curious about the 90K Comrades Marathon in South Africa. He’s also rumored to be involved in a charity-based multi-location marathon challenge that will be announced soon.
“It would have to be something very compelling like Comrades,” Hall said. “For me, it’s all about unique challenges. An event that has unique aspects to it, like this one, where I’ll be wearing crampons and a helmet and using trekking poles on my first leg over the snowfield. It’s a different kind of challenge, and it’s exciting.”
Hall is the captain of Team Americas 2 and is teamed up with three-time Olympian Deena Kastor and Brazillian runner Iaza Feitoza, along with age-groupers Mariana Brugger (Brazil), Kelsey Landrum (U.S.) and Sarah Brown (U.S.). Team Americas 1 is led by U.S. trail running star Megan Kimmel, Canadian trail running/snowshoeing champion David Le Porho and Argentina elite runner Manuel Mendez, along with amateurs Benjamin Farrell (U.S.), Bill Steinburg (Canada) and Maria Florencia Pollola (Argentina).
“I feel a lot healthier now. My energy is good again,” Hall says. “When I was struggling with fatigue, I wouldn’t have energy for anything else during the day. I would run, eat and sleep and that was it. Now being a father of four, it’s nice to have energy to do other things. You have to be pretty selfish and self-absorbed when you’re a professional athlete, so it’s nice to be able to step back from that and enjoy life a little bit more.”
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