Monthly Archives:

June 2016

ryan hall

Marrying Strength and Endurance

June 27, 2016
I am going to be honest here.  At one point in my life I hated to run.  That all changed one day when I was 13 and I was transformed into a kid who hated running to a kid who was fully devoted to developing my running abilities, training through the snow, rain, and any other obstacles I faced.  I trained like that for 20 years until my body could take it no longer.  I was so run-down at the end of my 20 year career that I couldn’t go jog an easy 30 minutes without having to do a substantial amount of running.  So last January I retired from professional running, but I found I was still craving physical challenge.  So I got into weight training.  Now, another confession: when I was running I hated doing weights and I only did the bare minimum I could get away with and never upper body weights as I was afraid to bulk up.  However, I found that I loved the daily challenge of weight training.  I could go hard everyday, which I couldn’t do in running, so I naturally loved it.
I couldn’t have been much weaker when I began weight training.  I think my bench was around 130 lbs and my squat was even worse than that.  It was a little embarrasing to be walking around the gym so skinny and weak.  However, as most find when they first begin weight training, I found that my improvement was rapid and dramatic.  I felt like I was literally watching my body change before me.  It was also fun to be able to take a different approach to nutrition, so rather than stepping on the scale and being bummed out if I gained a pound, I would be bummed if I didn’t gain a pound.  Now, 7 months later I have gotten my bench up to 215, my squat to 195, and my deadlift to 245lbs.  I know these are not impressive numbers but I am excited by the improvement I’ve seen.
In the last few months I’ve also rekindled my love for running as I prepared for a recent relay race around Mount Blanc.  It took a while for my body to adjust to running with extra muscle (I went from just under 140 lbs to 165 lbs), but now it feels good to run again.  With all the weight training it has added a ton of power to my legs.  Now, my favorite workouts to do in running are sprints, both on hills and flat.  I used to hate sprinting, largely due to the fact that my legs were so muscularly weak.  It feels amazing to walk around feeling so much stronger than I once was.
I continue to have lofty goals as I marry running with weight lifting.  I want to get as big, strong, and fit as possible.  I think it would be a good benchmark for me to be able to deadlift, squat, and bench 300lbs (I’m guessing I would be the only 2:04 marathoner to accomplish that feat) but I think it will take me some time to get there.  When it comes to running I’ve found running to be a great way for me to lean out after going through a pretty big bulking phase, so the two actually work together really well.  I’d much rather be outside running through beautiful single-track trails then walking on a stair climber.
In terms of competitions, it can be hard to find events that have both the endurance and strength world colliding.  I’ve been captivated by the Mr. America event because it’s (like me) found how beautiful it is to marry endurance and strength.  I am so inspired by all the competitors at Mr. America and will be following the results closely as I search for further motivation for me to reach my endurance and strength goals which is the key to reach my goals.

Living Fearlessly: Adoption

June 9, 2016

A friend of mine in Redding, Natalie Putnam, asked me to write a guest blog for her site on adoption.  It was the first time I had taken the time to really sit down and write out my feelings on this journey we have been on the last 10 months.  I wanted to repost it here for all of you as well…

Previous to starting our adoption process Sara had spent a week training in Ethiopia during their cool, damp, rainy season and fallen in love with the country, people, and culture.  We have had the pleasure of traveling all over the world training and racing as professional track and road runners so we can tell when a place grabs our hearts in a unique way.  Sara so raved about Ethiopia that we decided to return the following year (only slightly earlier in the year before the rain arrived) to prepare for the upcoming Boston Marathon.

In between training sessions we spent many afternoons in Addis Ababa visiting orphanages and other family-based care providers. It was on one of these trips that God truly broke my heart for older child adoption. After meeting and playing with the many, many older children in the orphanages I couldn’t help but feel that I would take any one of these kids home with me.

I couldn’t think of a reason to not adopt an older child that wasn’t driven by fear. I seek to make all my decisions in life with a love-based approach so rather than determining ‘I am afraid that I won’t be able to handle the challenges that adoption will hold’ I ask myself, ‘Do I have the love in my heart to love these kids?’ For me the answer to that question was yes. It was that simple.

After that trip we went home and changed all our paperwork to adopt an older child. During this time we began becoming aware (mostly via Facebook) of waiting kids in sibling groups and again my heart burned for these kids, being filled with love from the God who loves these children so deeply. I couldn’t find a good reason, besides fear of failure, to not step up and adopt a sibling group.

Being a professional runner taught me that if I was going to have a chance to win a race I had to take a chance and go out fast with the leaders.  Once I committed to going out with the leaders, I couldn’t afford to let fear creep into my mind because it would weaken me.  I knew that failure was an very real possibility (I failed a lot more than I was successful throughout my 20 year career spanning two Olympic Marathons, the American Record in the half marathon (59:43) and a 2:04:58 marathon best time) but I knew I could get through failure, what I could not accept was not trying to win.  I approached building my family the same way I approached races.  I trained endlessly to exhaustion, learned from the best coaches and athletes in the world, and then went to the races believing anything was possible.

I always liked to be prepared for anything I might encounter from the elements, the course, and my competitors, but at the same time expecting nothing, meaning being open to however my body was feeling and being able to respond moment by moment accordingly.  So when it came to adoption I was a student but then I was also not going to allow fear to creep in once I had committed.  I knew I would fail many, many times as a father but knowing that I didn’t have to be perfect set me free to pursue being a good dad without fear.

During this time of switching home study agencies we became aware of a sibling group of 4 girls ages 5, 8, 12, and 14.  Apparently they had been looking for a home for these girls for quite some time, unsuccessfully.  They were talking of splitting them into two’s since they weren’t able to find a family for them.  The idea of splitting up siblings crushed my heart.  I couldn’t imagine being split apart from my siblings at that age.  I felt immediately that God had put love in my heart for these four girls and wanted to adopt them.  My wife took a more systematic approach, weighing out the pro’s and con’s and deciding if we were at a point in or lives to be both willing and able to adopt four girls.  Ultimately, we decided to travel to Ethiopia and meet the girls and get to know them and let them get to know us without them knowing that we were thinking of adopting them (so they could be free to be themselves around us and not performing for potential parents).  Something that was important to my wife and I was giving the girls choice in choosing us.  Through all the trauma and everything the girls had been through they were never given and choice in any of this, everything just happened to them.  We wanted to empower them to choose us just as we were choosing them.

I am so grateful that my Dad never forced me to run when I was a kid.  I was really into baseball as a kid and just like every other little kid in the U.S. dreamt of one day playing in the Major Leagues.  So even though I was good at running, and my Dad told me I could be a great runner if I wanted to, he never forced me to run.  He waited until I chose running.  If my Dad would have forced me to run I would have never made it through all the very hard seasons of running that awaited me.  The ability to get through hard things comes from inside, a desire that you want to do something.  If you are doing something for someone else or not because you  want it for yourself then you will never get through the hard times.  In the same way, we wanted our kids to choose us because when the hard times come they have to know they choose this path.


During the adoption process I began to understand how aggressively God pursues us in the same way that I had to aggressively pursue my kids. I flew through endless stacks of paperwork, went to never-ending fingerprinting and doctor appointments, met with social workers, paid a large sum of money and patiently waited for that day we would all pull up in our driveway home at last. Adoption is like running.  It is a journey, it’s got hard stretches, but in the end it is a beautiful adventure that is very much worth taking.  Adoption should also be celebrated in the same way that winning a race is celebrated.  The best way we can understand our adoptive Father’s (God) love for us is to adopt for our self.



God does the same for each of us. He pursues. He pays a great price. He longs to be with us. He patiently waits for the day that we make a home with him in our hearts.

Adoption is the greatest thing I’ve done. It’s sweeter than competing in Olympic Games and running American Records because it has increased the love in our house and in my heart.