Former Stanford track athlete qualifies for second OlympicsBy Mark Soltau January 30, 2012, 7:42 pm
Ryan Hall, '05, former Stanford track athlete, recently competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials for the marathon. He finished 2nd and sealed his spot on the London 2012 Olympic team. This is his second U.S. Olympic team for the marathon, qualifying for Beijing in 2008. Ryan's wife, Sara, '05, is also a former Stanford track athlete, and most recently won the gold medal in the 2011 Pan American Games in Mexico. They both started the Steps Foundation in 2008 to help end global poverty.
Q: What is the hardest part about training for an Olympic marathon?
A: Honestly, the hardest part is not over-training. I have always been extremely motivated, although I will say there are tired days when I don't feel like getting out the door, but I almost always enjoy training once I am out the door. So for me, I have to be smart about respecting my body and allowing enough rest in my program so that I can recover from workouts and have the workouts actually be effective in stimulating physical growth.
Q: What is your biggest sacrifice?
A: I would say the biggest sacrifice is socially. I miss out on a lot of fun stuff that happens after the hours of 10 p.m. I remember in college being in the dorms brushing my teeth getting ready for bed at 10 p.m. and hearing other guys asking each other what their plans were for the night. It can be hard sometimes to miss out on hanging out with friends and fun times but I'm learning to be more intentional with my friendships and try and carve out some free time during the day.
Q: On average, what is your weekly running schedule?
A: I don't add up my weekly mileage anymore but I will say that it has come down drastically in the last 18 months. Early on in my marathoning career, I would log 120 miles a week, which led to over-training and some sub-par performances. Now I take one day completely off per week, which really adds a lot to both my quality of life and quality of training/racing. If I had to guess I would say I run around 100 miles per week, which is low for an elite marathon runner. But my goal isn't a given amount of miles in a week, my goal is to hit two really good, quality workouts per week and then spend the rest of the time recovering from that.
Q: How do you keep long-distance running from becoming boring or monotonous?
A: I am always changing up my workouts. I often ask myself, ‘What sounds like a fun workout to do?’ I never go into any workouts with a sense of, ‘I got to get through this.’ Not all workouts are easy or fun but I always am looking forward to the workouts. Also, I change up the routes I run and hit up some new trails.
Q: Have you been inspired by other runners?
A: Oh yeah, all the time. I am super blessed not only to have my running career to enjoy but also to partake in my wife Sara's career.
She is constantly inspiring me. For example, I love to watch her in the weight room because she is so explosive in nature. It’s also cool for me to get to travel all around the United States and the world to watch her compete. This last fall, I accompanied her to Guadalajara, Mexico, and saw her win the gold medal in the steeplechase. I felt like I was on the podium with her as the national anthem played. I'll always look back at that moment as one of my most cherished memories.
Q: What does it mean to you to qualify for your second Olympic Games and represent the United States this summer in London?
A: I am so stoked to be representing the United States in London.
Having had the pleasure of experiencing the Beijing Olympics, it made me even more inspired to get back on the team because I have experienced the Olympics and know what an incredible experience it is.
I have dreams of hearing the national anthem playing on the podium. It would be so amazing!
Q: How did your Stanford experience help you after college?
A: College was tough for me but it really did prepare me for the season ahead. The biggest lesson I learned at Stanford was how to fail. It seems weird, but having as much failure as I did, both academically and physically, made me realize that I can handle failure. Knowing how to handle failure frees me up to take risks and really go after my goals.
I also learned through the struggles how thick God's grace is and how I always have enough strength to get through even the toughest of circumstances, like when I dropped out of school for the winter quarter of my sophomore year.
Q: What was your favorite class at Stanford?
A: Sleep and Dreams!
Q: Do you follow Stanford sports?
A: Oh, yeah. I follow Stanford on Twitter since we don't have cable TV at our house, and whenever I am in Palo Alto, I always go to games. I also like to follow how the cross country and track teams are doing online. I'll always be a fan of all things Cardinal!
Q: Do you run with your wife?
A: Yeah, we run together all the time, mostly just on our hard days since marathon training is pretty different from 3,000-meter steeplechase training.
Q: Tell us about the foundation you started to help end global poverty.
A: My wife and I started the Hall Steps Foundation with the goal of taking steps toward eliminating global poverty after going to Zambia in the fall of 2008 and seeing what a huge impact runners can make on the developing world. We helped raise nearly $1 million to bring clean water to a community in Zambia, which means the people in these communities are living 10 years longer (with the addition of clean water to drink) than they otherwise would and all because a group of runners decided to dedicate their marathon races to raising money for the cause. This was the launching point for us. Now we are helping to fund a hospital in Kenya and involved in some other cool projects to address the root problems of poverty domestically and internationally.
People can learn how they can run any race as part of the Steps Foundation or just get more information at TheStepsFoundation.org
Q: Are you on a restricted diet? If so, what food do you crave that is bad for running?
A: I love cinnamon rolls but don't eat them very often since I am on a gluten-free diet. My general dietary regime is to eat as close to how God made it as possible. My favorite food is sweet potatoes! So good. I generally crave healthy food more than anything.
Q: Name something people should know about marathoners?
A: We are human just like you. You may think you could never run 26.2 miles but I believe almost everyone can and even would enjoy running a marathon. You learn a lot about yourself when you train and race a marathon. I highly recommend it.
Q: How many marathons have you completed in your life?
A: I've completed 10 marathons since 2007.
Q: Were you an all-round athlete growing up?
A: I loved baseball. I always wanted to be a pro ball player but I was too small. My heart was big but my body was small. I also played a couple of years of basketball, a year of football, and a year of soccer. I started running when I was 14 and never looked back.