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sara hall


An Incredible Ride: Thanks Ry

January 18, 2016

By, Sara Hall

This week, Ryan made the decision to step away from competitive running (You can read his blog below this on reasons for doing so if you haven’t yet). It was a bittersweet day for me when he made the final decision, and yet I knew in my spirit it was the right one. On one hand there was relief. Few saw and experienced the struggle he went through like I did. Constantly trying to encourage him and doing what I can to help him physically and emotionally has not been easy. The hardest part for me is that it hasn’t all been struggle, he has had stretches of really good and hopeful training that have us entering races and believing for better days. And yet right before a race would sink into a pit of fatigue, much to the frustration of both of us and much harder than if things were linearly dismal. 

It has also been sweet because he has been genuinely joyful and at peace ever since the decision. It was clear to him, and there were no second thoughts. The plan was never to hold onto the career “’til the bitter end” but until he had fulfilled what he felt God’s call on his life was for this season. Seasons change and this felt like a new fresh one. He has lots of incredible gifts, including as a father, and it has been fun to see him already leaning into them more.


Beijing 2008

Nonetheless, I was surprised by my emotions when the article was released on Friday. I sat there in the plane to Houston reading the article and tears started falling and wouldn’t stop (just a tad embarrassing! No wailing though fortunately).  It was such a fun ride, and I was going to miss those times together.  Bumming around Europe on the track circuit, sharing many miles just us two (and maybe the pups), seeing him grab the lead from the gun in the Boston Marathon… I think my favorite and one that rarely makes the highlight real is when he ran his first marathon at the London Marathon. Most people are just trying to run conservatively and not blow up in their first marathon, but Ryan went out and took the lead over world record holders and Olympic champions. He became the 2nd fastest American of all time in his first race by choosing to run absolutely fearless and with passion. There are many other races that you all know well where his similar approach led to breakthroughs. 


A big reason why he is able to run so fearlessly is having his identity so secure in who God says that he is, apart from his performance. We are all created by God in His image and have value regardless of what we achieve. We are loved fully and unconditionally. When we fully grasp that we can run free, not worrying that failure will disconnect us from what we really want- love, approval, a sense of worth. Having this mindset is something we have been going after and at times feel like we are pioneering together, and I will miss sharing the process with him. But I have already learned so much from him in that area and was so inspired by how he was just as concerned about internal breakthrough as he was external breakthrough.


Ryan is the most authentic person I know. He bears his soul for the world to see because he couldn’t care less about criticism. He hopes that in doing so maybe he could help a few people that might be going through what he’s going through. Often people keep their training a secret, but he published his entire marathon buildup in his book, along with his personal journal, with hopes that others can learn from his mistakes and successes. When your identity is secure, you are not competitive and withholding but you are encouraging of others learning from and surpassing you. I am not fully there yet personally and continually inspired by his authenticity and lack of weight criticism holds in his life.


So here I am sitting on this plane to Houston with tears flowing, and as I was praying about it I felt God reminding me that those fun adventures of races together weren’t ending if I didn’t want them to- because I was continuing to race, and just starting my marathon career. I don’t consider it likely that I will reach the same heights Ryan did, but regardless I hope to make some new memories together on the same streets while reliving the treasured memories from his career. This has already begun with my race last weekend at Houston half marathon, where I couldn’t help but be thinking about that moment in 2007 where his career first took off. It felt very fitting to be back there, where it all began for him on the roads and was now ending. He wasn’t lighting them up with an American record this time but instead popping around the course on a bike cheering me on and coaching me to a new PR. I hope this race was just the beginning of a new season of adventures together!


Our Running Times cover in 2006. Who let these little kids get married a year before?


Crossing Two Finish Lines

November 18, 2015

By, Sara Hall

When I first started running professionally, I never thought I would want to continue competing when I had kids.  I imagined being pulled in two directions, always feeling guilty that I wasn’t giving 100% of myself to each.  I like to be “all-in” in whatever my endeavor, and wanted to fully enjoy motherhood and be present for my kids.

However, here I was having taken 4 kids out of the orphanage and I still had the same desire and love for the sport just as I anticipated when we began the adoption process.  Of course having the responsibility of nurturing and leading 4 human beings to become thriving people would be an endeavor that would trump all else, but I hoped that the girls’ adjustment to their new life would allow me to continue to do what I love.

Outside the court house when we officially became a family in mid September

Outside the court house when we officially became a family in mid September

Adoption is like signing your name on a blank contract, agreeing to love and commit to these children “come what may”, and from talking to many adoptive parents of older kids, I have learned that “what may” can include some life-altering, traumatic new normals.  I prayed that would not be the case in our family story.

Our time becoming a family together in Ethiopia really could not have gone much better. The little girls begged their way into our bedroom where they took up permanent residence, and each morning they would wake up with an excitement from their new-found freedom. All the girls proved to be just as obedient and loving as they had been when we visited them in the orphanage and we spent each day enjoying meals together, doing school, and being active in our beautiful surroundings. We had one day with one girl being a bit moody for some of it and some quiet meals where I got a bit anxious that this would forever be my fate (which is hilarious because now our dinner conversations are over an hour and we have to police the “wait your turn” rule to talk) but nothing traumatic. My parents came out almost the entire time which was an incredible treat for all of us and a big help in their schooling.  I trudged through my last week of high mileage and mega-workouts before starting my Chicago Marathon taper, and since I had endured a disastrous tune-up half marathon at the Great North Run prayed that the freshness would come back in time.  Fortunately I had run well placing 2nd at Falmouth Road Race a month before Great North, so I tried to recall those memories and discard the half as the byproduct of a possible stomach bug or marathon legs.

First night as a family in Ethiopia

First night as a family in Ethiopia

We had left plenty of time (2 1/2 weeks) to finish the immigration process before our tickets were booked to fly home, but thanks to a glitch on the immigration website our codes were not being inputted and in the final day we spent the entire day at the US Embassy in Addis Ababa hoping it would get fixed in time for us all to fly home together.  We got three of the four finished that day, and Ryan and I decided I would fly home with the younger three since i desperately needed some sea level, and he would take Hana the following day.  I was a bit hesitant to travel alone with 3 youngish children, but the girls made it easy on me, taking every new experience in stride without the shock I
expected and even fighting over who would carry my stuff!

Celebrating the holiday Meskel in Addis Ababa

Celebrating the holiday Meskel in Addis Ababa

When Hana and Ryan flew in we treked back to Redding, and the moment I was waiting for finally came to pass: the girls got to see their new home!  I (half-jokingly) told Ryan I expected them to bust out intochoreographed song and dance to Annie’s “I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here” so he’d better make that happen.  Alas, they did not, but they did love our home and surprisingly even the dogs! (Dogs living inside as family members is a foreign concept in Ethiopia)  My favorite memory of this night is (now 9 year old) Jasmine finding her

My little sherpas traveling through London Heathrow

My little sherpas traveling through London Heathrow

pink bunny hoodie towel and stripping off all her clothes and wearing it around everywhere the rest of the night and following morning!  It was surreal to have these girls we had prayed for and knew would be coming to be sound asleep in their bunk bedsand sleepily coming down for breakfast in the morning. This was real!

In Week One, we broke all the rules the adoption books and therapists recommended like keeping them from being overstimulated by hunkering down and “cocooning” at home as a family. Instead we took on our large, loud churchon Day 1, Bra shopping at the mall on Day 2, throwing a large birthday party with 20 wild kids soon after… and they handled it all beautifully. It was a short 4 days before I had to head out for Chicago Marathon, but I had total peace seeing how miraculously they had adjusted to our home life, even peace to let Ryan follow a few days later and leave them in his parents’ care!  Fortunately my legs adjusted to sea level similarily smoothly and I was excited to toe the line and run my “debut redo”.

First American grocery shopping experience

First American grocery shopping experience. yes those are grocery bags on their heads!

The race was not everything I hoped for but definitely everything I needed and set out to accomplish.  I went out conservatively in 1:14:45 much thanks to a solid pack of guys I joined including some Fleet Feet Chicagoers which was definitely a blessing as the “Windy City” lived up to i
ts name!  After that I was flying solo for most of the 2nd half, passing guys as they came back to me but without anyone else running an even pace moving forward.  I did my best to keep my pace up but was not able to and slipped a bit to a 2:31:14, good for 10th overall and 2nd American.  The last mile, I was relieved to be finishing strong and feeling so different than I did in my LA Marathon debut. But as soon as I saw the clock and crossed the finish line  the competitor in me thought “aw shucks, I wanted to run faster!”

Regardless, there was a lot to be thankful for, and I felt a wave of relief as I rushed home to get back to the girls.  I had crossed two finish lines: the end of a long adoption process and the end of a long and challenging marathon training block that happened to coincide, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude that God had given me the grace to handle both.

Though the marathon may not have been great timing, the post-marathon break was excellent timing.  I was able to be accessible to my kids all day, go on some jogs with them, and getting them situated in their new life, which included preparations for school, 3 long rounds of closet rehaul, water survival/“swim” lessons and exploring our city. Their first weeks at school I spent the day bouncing around making sure everyone was surviving English-immersion OK. Think about going back to junior high… now think about going in a completely different culture, not speaking the language, and looking different than most kids! My girls are brave and I am proud of them.

Family run on the Rail Trail

Family run on the Rail Trail

We treked down to SoCal to meet family and friends, visited the ocean for the first time, and once again each new experience was handled in stride by our amazing kids.  On the trip to LA I had the opportunity to run the Olympic Trials course as it stood, and I excitedly took it.  With jello-y legs from time off, I was glad the race was not that day but couldn’t help feeling very inspired.  The fire still burned. Soon after I started back hard workouts and surprisingly felt better than before the marathon.  My thoughts before this had been to not race until a tune up half marathon in January, but the competitor in me immediately started wondering “when can I race?”  I love what I do and am not afraid of hopping into a race and failing.  It was out of pure passion that I entered the US 12k last minute and managed a 2nd place finish against a great field of US women and Ioved every minute of it! I knew that Ryan was going to wake up the girls at 4:30 AM California time to watch the live feed, and as the camera followed us I thought of them cheering me on.


The last few weeks we have been able to find our rhythm as a family.  A lot of the start-up appointments and shopping are starting to die down and our school-week groove has emerged. There is no doubt that parenting is a sacrifice and I would probably benefit from laying around watching Netflix all day, but that has never been me and fortunately after much practice from my student-athlete years I seem to handle “busy” relatively well.  I am not a control freak (if you are, international adoption will be very VERY stretching). I do not need a clean house to function, and fortunately my kids like to help clean.  I strive to be adaptable and keep the main things the main things.  Life is much busier, but it is also much richer.

There are too many moments from our 6 weeks home that are forever etched in my brain, but here are a few that have made my heart smile: the IMG_3180post-dinner impromptu “dramas” they put on for us, running the trails with Hana and Mia and seeing them learning to enjoy pushing themselves, Lily spending as much time in my lap as possible and constantly declaring “Me with You!”, Jasmine accidentally taking the 10k route at a local race and running almost the whole way with complete joy, Jasmine’s overflowing enthusiasm about everything, Mia’s servant heart manifested in many deeds behind the scenes, playing in the waves for hours with them on their first trip to the ocean, the epic school outfits they come up with that always include one piece of ASICS gear (think Sporty Spice)…. I could go on and on about these awesome four.

I am very passionate about my journey towards the Olympic Trials, however I am equally passionate about being a mom and stewarding well these beautiful girls God has entrusted me with.  My goal so far has been to be totally present when I am doing each one.  I do what I can to finish my training and work by the time they finish school and put away my phone as much as possible when I am with them.  But I also have to say no to field trip driving, teacher-aiding, Pinterest-home-making, and many other things I would like to do because when I am training I want to give that my all as well.

Many call this the “honeymoon period” for adoption, but I refuse to speak that over our story.  We are in this “come what may”, but just as I always strive to live expectantly in my running career that the best is yet to come, so I believe for our family.




Our Journey to Becoming a Family

September 8, 2015

By, Sara Hall

We are excited to introduce you to our four beautiful daughters: Hana (15), Mia (13), Jasmine (8) and Lily (5)!


Our family! All wearing traditional Ethiopian clothes

It all started 2 years ago when Ryan and I decided we wanted to start a family.  To be honest, Ryan started feeling “the itch” first- after all, we had gotten married so young, so even though we were still young it felt like the right time to him.  We had always talked about growing our family through giving children a home that might not otherwise have one.  But at the time, I wasn’t quite ready for my world to get instantly a lot smaller than it was and be tied down to one place.  I was enjoying the freedom of traveling the world running and pursuing the things God has put on my heart.  And yet, since we were leaning towards international adoption from an impoverished country, we knew that it was a long process that usually took years, and so we started doing our research and beginning the many hoops required of adoptive parents and I hoped my heart would catch up by the time it finished.


Lily with daddy

Lily with daddy

We chose to adopt from Ethiopia for a number of reasons, one of which being that there are over 4 million orphans in this country alone and though adoption is only one fractional solution to this orphan crisis, for those few it is life-changing.  We went into the process assuming since it was our first child we would adopt a young infant to experience the (near) full life cycle.  However, all of that changed on a training trip to Ethiopia when we spent time in an orphanage in the capital Addis Ababa.  We loved every one of the children we spent time with, and though the babies were adorable and cuddly it was the kids that captured our hearts.  It was also during this time that we learned there were plenty of people willing to adopt infants, but the largest need was with “older” children, sibling groups, and those with special needs. To clarify, in adoption “older” typically means over the age of 3, with the likelihood of a child being adopted drastically decreasing as their age increases, until they are no longer eligible after age 16.  I don’t think anyone starts the process thinking “I’d like to adopt some teenagers!”, but we realized that adopting older kids was more in line with our original vision to provide a loving home for kids that may not otherwise have one, as we strongly believe it’s something every child deserves.

It’s neat how something that sounds so crazy to you at one point can seem totally normal when God gives you the grace for it.  The further we got into this adoption journey, the more research we did and the more we spent time in Ethiopia and grew to love its people and culture, the more God expanded our hearts to the point that when we heard about a group for four sisters that had been in an orphanage waiting (almost four years now) for a family, we actually considered it.   We have come to know and experience a big God who is always with us and will always give us what we need to do whatever He calls us to do.  It doesn’t mean you always win or it’s always easy but He is always with us to give us the grace to handle whatever we face and uses it all for our good. It is when we step out in faith that we are able to experience more of Him.  Not to say that you don’t do your research, talk to people who have walked that road, and “count the cost”.  But we did all these and we still felt drawn to them.

The day we first met

The first week we met

We decided to meet the girls on another training stint to Ethiopia this year. It had become our favorite destination training camp and one where we felt after living at altitude so long we got an added benefit from the extreme elevation.  And also, knowing our future child would be coming from there had made our hearts begin to feel joined to it somehow.  We had seen pictures and heard their tragic story that brought them to this place of not having any family able to care for them, but additionally not even being safe in their home area.  Despite experiencing more in their short lives than I could even imagine in mine, the girls hearts seemed incredibly open and loving to all they encountered. After spending some time with them and all the other kids in the orphanage to get to know them (without them knowing that’s why we were visiting) and after much prayer, we decided that we were going to say “yes” to becoming their parents!

Waiting for us in Ethiopia but already a family

Waiting for us in Ethiopia but already a family

I will never forget the day we told them.  The head nanny called them into their office, and told them “Girls, these are your new parents!” pointing to us.  The two older girls looked completely shocked at first, covering their mouths in surprise, and then tears of pure joy flowed from their eyes as they rushed to embrace us, and the two youngers followed.  A burden that the older two had carried, worry about what their future would hold, melted off with relief along with the tears.  We explained what adoption means, that we would be going to live in the US, and that sometimes transitioning to a new culture and language would be hard, but that we would have to work together as a team. And then we asked them if they wanted to join our family. We wanted them to have a choice in the matter, as adopted kids rarely do and they were old enough to understand. They emphatically agreed with big smiles! We then gave them some presents we had brought- necklaces engraved with the letter “H”, their new last name, a new beginning. It was fun to learn that before this, they had told the nannies “Oh, if only we could have a family like them!”

Sending packages from the USA to let them know we are thinking of them

Sending packages from the USA to let them know we are thinking of them


International adoption is incredibly beautiful and redemptive- a picture of what God does for all of us, choosing us and adopting us as his children and giving us a new life.  But after talking to many adoptive parents, we know it is not without its own unique challenges.  We may not be changing diapers and doing 3 am feedings, but adjusting to a different culture and new language as well as working through the wounds of the past will be a journey we are on together.  We appreciate your prayers and support, as we will certainly need them!

Our pursuit of running at the highest level continues though the process will inevitably look a bit different.  No longer free to roam the earth like gypsies, training and racing wherever and whenever, we will be more rooted to one place as the girls are all school-aged (which may end up being a good thing for us!) Fortunately Ethiopia’s strong tradition of running means the girls already have an appreciation for what we do and are excited to watch us compete.  It is going to be a fun ride, and we are excited for the adventures ahead!

Going for a run at the famous Meskel Square the day we became a family

Going for a run at the famous Meskel Square the day we became a family


With Love,

The Halls- Ryan, Sara, Hana, Mia, Jasmine & Lily



June 18, 2015

By, Sara Hall

“If you’re going to be a big dreamer, be ready to experience a lot of disappointment”. This is the line that stood out to me most during the documentary on Ryan recently released online by Flotrack. Often times I feel I spend half of my career rebounding from disappointment and setback and I have come to believe a huge key to success is resiliency. My last blog I wrote about my devastating disappointment at the LA marathon, but since then I was able to rebound and place 20th at the World Cross Country Championships 13 days later, my highest World Cross finish.

IMG_1625I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to compete, as I could still hardly hobble around the day after the race. I had envisioned a much different finish at the marathon, one that would leave me tired but not trashed, much like the majority of Ryan’s marathons. But after praying about it and discussing it with my support team and our US women’s team coach I decided that since my struggles had mainly been muscular, that I was going to do everything I could to get my muscles working again and be able to use the fitness I had worked so hard to build.

I asked my coach Steve to send me a protocol for my new state of “super recovery-mode”. It felt like cramming for a test, and the task was just what my mind needed to rebound emotionally. I’ve found often the best thing to do after a race disappointment is to start looking ahead and get a vision for the future. Of course, you want to assess what went wrong with your team and not just sweep it all under the rug and move on, but you can’t stay there forever. And maybe racing again right away doesn’t make sense, but at least get a vision of where you are headed and what tangible things you can work on to get you there- even if that is taking a vacation! Having vision helps you to not feel so disoriented when this goal you had been so focused on is suddenly gone and without closure.

My recovery cramming included getting in the pool, at first just moving my legs around and doing walking drills, and eventually doing Aqua jogging (land running was out of the question). I iced my legs in the Sacramento River ( perfect 50 degrees), took

Icing in the Sacramento River

Icing in the Sacramento RiverEpsom salt baths, wore compression tights and used the Normatec compression boots. I did self massage with all my tools. I took in lots of Muscle Milk and Monster Amino and ate lots of protein, including a large amount right before bed.

Epsom salt baths, wore compression tights and used the Normatec compression boots. I did self massage with all my tools. I took in lots of Muscle Milk and Monster Amino and ate lots of protein, including a large amount right before bed.

One thing on Steve’s list I found interesting was “minimize stress- it has a similarly catabolic effect on your body”. Of course it makes sense, but the reminder made me more motivated to make peace with LA. I am normally very disciplined in staying away from running websites in general and specifically commentary on myself as that is rarely beneficial, but I made an intentional effort to take a break from social media as well, as often you can see more than you want to there without looking for it. Fortunately I have friends and family that love me unconditionally, and I made sure to spend time with them and spend time listening to what God says about me. I believe that when you give your life to God, He redeems everything in your life, and believing this makes me realize that all the hard work leading up to the marathon was not in vain. He will redeem it, even if I haven’t seen how yet. This takes off a huge load of stress and regret.

Eventually my extremely slow and painful runs became less tender, and I was able to do a

XC World Championships in Guiyang, China (pic: Jim Estes)

XC World Championships in Guiyang, China (pic: Jim Estes)

short fartlek on grass before flying out for Guiyang, China. I had seen how far I had come in a week, and felt confident I could represent the U.S. well given another week

of recovery. How well was definitely in question, and I won’t say I wasn’t nervous going into the race without knowing what my legs would give me. Because of that, considering the race was at altitude,and after seeing the tough course, I opted to go out more conservative than usual. But I was able to work my way up through the packs well and was excited to feel my leg strength was there when I asked of it. I crossed the line in 20th, elated, and watched anxiously for my teammates to see how we’d fare (we ended up 5th). It is probably the most memorable world championship I have run thus far and I feel incredibly thankful!

No sooner had I enjoyed the post-race afterglow and finally having my legs back under me, ready to get back to work towards track season, that I got hit with another “opportunity” to rebound once again. As soon as I got on the 12 hour flight leaving China, in a completely full economy cabin, I got extremely sick and vomited most of the way. It was some kind of Chinese superbug, as it didn’t pass In the few days that the usual Ethiopian variety I’ve gotten recently, but lasted 10 days until I finally killed it with meds. It was frustrating knowing I was missing precious track preparation time, but I put my head down and grinded on, trying not to compare myself constantly to my pre-sickness self or be rattled by slow times, but focus on doing what I could to get my energy back. Four weeks later, I was rewarded by getting my legs back going in time to finish 2nd at the US 25k championships. Since then I’ve run my second fastest half marathon at RnR

Rock n Roll San Diego Half marathon, with this shaggy guy

Rock n Roll San Diego Half marathon, with this shaggy guy

San Diego and my first track 10k at Portland Track Classic, qualifying for the US Championships.

The shiny race performances will eventually fade, but what remains is the character built on the journey of overcoming disappointments and choosing hope again. I hope you will be inspired to not let discouragement keep you knocked down- you never know what opportunities are on the other side if you do what you can to rebound and keep believing!


My Debut Marathon

March 22, 2015

By, Sara Hall

You know when you get off the plane and do a shake out around congested LA airport that you’re excited! I arrived in LA just itching to get to the starting line. I had a healthy respect for the marathon and knew that it can take even the least suspecting of victims, but I felt I had prepared the best I could for the challenges I might face out there (all the while knowing that the best preparation is having raced 26.2 miles before, which I lacked).

The early miles of LA are a series of steep descents and ascents. The pace was much slower than I anticipated, so the ascents were never taxing and I relished the feeling of being out there in the race I had visualized often. The crowd at times made me smile and gave me goosebumps when they roared. I smiled inside as I successfully maneuvered crowds to get my bottles, something I had watched Ryan do countless times. It was my turn, I was running a marathon, and I felt great! However, I couldn’t help noticing my quads feeling unusually heavy. I at first chocked it up to eating extra carbs the day before, which causes you to retain water. “The extra glycogen will do me good later” I thought. However, as we progressed along and they got heavier and heavier I realized this wasn’t just water weight, that my muscles were taking a beating from the downhills.

Yet at halfway, I wasn’t too alarmed. I tried to tell myself that my fitness would carry me through, and shifted my focus to my controlled breathing. When we ran downhill I didn’t need to use my quad muscles much, but on the uphill stretches when they were required to work it became harder and harder to keep up, until finally at mile 16 on a long uphill stretch I wasn’t able to stay in contact. It is a strange feeling to be trapped in your body, with your engine ready to go but two flat tires. I looked at my watch at mile 16 and thought “I’ve done 16 mile tempo runs at altitude much faster than this, and my quads never felt this way. What’s going on?!”. I had tired to intentionally prepare for the downhills in training since they are not my strength to begin with, but apparently it wasn’t sufficient. Aaron Braun had warned me that at his debut on the course “at mile 14, my quads were done” at it now it rings eerily similar.

My mind kept telling me to speed up as I noticed the pack wasn’t pulling away too much, but my quads felt like lead- and then the cramping started. Adductors, and calves at different points started also making themselves heard, likely due to dehydration from the unseasonally warm day. I was having a hard enough time keeping my typical easy run pace going on the flats, and then Miles 21-23 were severely uphill, and I felt like I was in one of those dreams where you are running in quicksand. At this point, I contemplated dropping out. It would be the smart thing to do. I was set to finish at a time embarrassingly slower than I anticipated. It would save my muscles from further damage from running through cramps. There were plenty of reasons to justify it.

But I didn’t feel peace about that, and when I prayed about what to do I felt God encouraging me to keep going. I have never dropped out of a race before, and one of my core values is if at all possible, finish what you start. Plus, I know that once you drop out once it is always an option in your mind. I have had some races that it would have been easier and saved me the humiliating black mark of a bad time on my running history. But as I finally crested the never-ending hill, I had a steely resolve that “I’ve come this far, I am finishing this thing!” The pain was relentless, my legs were like steel poles, but I pressed on.

My view of the marathon was not the same view I had experienced through Ryan’s eyes. I felt like in those final miles, I got a glimpse of what it is like from the masses’ perspective. Whereas normally I am so into competing that I rarely hear individual cheers, I was moving so slowly that each person’s encouragement made a literal difference in spurring me on. I remember the little 5 year old girl holding the “Go Sara Hall” sign and excitedly cheering, with little care for my place. I remember my mom at mile 24.5, and I thought in my head “Oh please do not be running so slow that she can keep up with me!” (sorry mom!). And I will never forget crossing the line and having them put the finisher medal around my neck.

Now usually I don’t even take the finisher’s medal at the end of the race, or if I do, I give them to my friends’ kids. As a professional, just finishing is never really an accomplishment. However, today it was, and as humiliated as I was to see the clock, crossing that line I couldn’t help but be proud. If nothing else, I was a marathoner, a title hard-fought for.

Since finishing, the race has been one of the hardest ones for me to swallow in my entire career. I had spent months in preparation where I had gained so much momentum going into this day, and now it feels like a bad dream. But there is no going back, only forward, and I know though it is a painful memory for me at this moment, 20 years from now when my professional career is finished I will look back and treasure this moment were I endured more pain and fought to not give up more than I ever had in my life. It’s these moments that build resolve in us that we carry into every challenging experience in life, running or non-running.

Part of the challenge of the marathon is not just the distance, but handling the course and weather you get on the day on top of the distance. I wasn’t prepared for all I encountered, and you’d think that after this I would never want to run another marathon, but quite the opposite has happened, I can’t wait for another opportunity! Sometimes believing in yourself means learning what you can from each poor performance, and then believing that next time with greater preparation and more experience it will be different.

“I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14