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Olympic Marathon Trials

March 18, 2016

The Olympic Marathon Trials happened on February 13th.  I did not make the team, and far from it- it was the first race I’ve ever had to DNF in, something I had hoped I’d never have to do.  When I toed the line in LA on a blazing hot day, I had incredible peace and expectation filling my heart.  I knew I had done all I could do before getting to the line, and I felt so grateful for how well my training had gone.  It was my best marathon buildup yet, and I felt prepared (even for the heat), FullSizeRender (2)hopeful, and excited.  I executed the plan I had committed to, but after halfway the lead pack pulled further and further away and I struggled to keep my composure.  Eventually my muscles started cramping much like they did at the LA marathon a year before, and though they were not the culprit that kept me from staying in contention, they further hindered me until they were so strong they stopped me in my tracks.  Around mile 17.5 after being jolted into stopping by a strong cramp, I knew in that moment the right thing to do was to step off the course.

As I sat on the curb trying to figure out what to do next, I felt frustrated and confused, but rather than having excuses for myself, I just wished I were better.  I was clearly not nearly as strong as I needed to be for everything that race involved, so far from how prepared I thought I was.  My race plan had not been a “hail Mary” approach, I had believed I belonged there and was capable of seeing the race to the end.  The team that made it to Rio was without a doubt the strongest, and I felt humbled by the race and by those that executed so well on such a challenging day.

I will never forget seeing my kids out on the course at mile 8.5, their excited faces in their matching t-shirts cheering wildly FullSizeRender (1)literally made me cry.  Fortunately we were running easy enough at that point that I couldn’t help but wave and blow them a kiss (the next loop, not so much!).  As tough as the conditions were, I will never forget how truly incredible the crowd was and created such an inspiring stage, and that along with seeing my kids further motivated me to want to deliver on that day.  When I saw my kids after the race, I couldn’t help but feel ashamed- of all the races for them to be at it had to be the first one I dropped out of.  But I will never forget the way that they embraced me with their love. Later in the night, when my five year old saw the tears I was trying to hide in the restaurant she said “don’t worry Mommy, when we get home we can go to the circle one (track) and I’ll help you run faster!”.  My 9 year old assured me she would teach me how to run better.  Each one came up to me individually to offer encouragement and help. It was not the fairytale ending of us booking tickets to Rio, but I felt us come together as a family in a deeper way, we became more of a team.

In some ways, it has been easier to get over than I expected, especially considering how strongly I believed the result would be different. I think it’s because I really have no regrets, and regrets are really what will keep you up at night. Not only did I pour my heart out in training, but I loved almost every minute of the journey to that line. I felt so alive and so “me” in the training.  Paces that used to be challenging to hold for six miles I can now hold for 15, week after week. A look at my Instagram feed might leave someone wondering if I even run anymore, but it is quite the opposite, my training is going the best it ever has and I am enjoying it more than I ever have before. I just don’t talk about it that much, mostly because I try to avoid self-promotion.  This training buildup felt like such a sacred process, pouring myself out with joy and thankfulness to God, celebrating the victories with just Him and maybe one orIMG_0079 two other people. It gave Ryan and me such a fun project to work on together, and lots of quality time to replace the hours we are used to spending together running. Fortunately the end result didn’t change anything about this.

Two days after the race, ignoring my aching legs, we took on Disneyland.  It began with a parenting fail, starting out on Pirates of the Caribbean (darkness, guns, skeletons, not quite the mellow family ride we remembered) but we had a blast and our kids once again proved that they could take on even the most “over-stimulating” experiences like champs.  Life went on, and it was still beautiful and challenging and rich.  I felt a shift when we got home, a resiliency to believe and hope again, one step at a time.  By inviting my kids into this process, I get to teach them to not let failure discourage them from believing again, and to determine for themselves how to measure success.  For me, that is being faithful with what God has given me towards the things He puts on my heart.  I can be successful no matter how fit my competitors are or no matter what crazy weather is going on or what injury or setbacks I experience- success is being faithful.  At the moment that looks like preparing the best I can for the races ahead- first up, the World Half Marathon Championships in two weeks! I’m not taking for granted any opportunity to

represent the USA, and I’m already starting to sharpen my track spikes as I eye the Olympic Track Trials in July. New season, new goals, but the same passion.


P.S. In other news, our family reached the 6 month mark of being together! This was a huge milestone for me as in our first home study with the girls home I asked our social worker, “Things have been really good and surprisingly easy, do you think this is just the ‘honeymoon period’?” and she said “Well, they seem pretty adjusted, but I’d say if you make it to 6 months without any real issues you’re probably home free”.  So I’ve had it in my mind and counting down the days ’til this moment. Not to say we

have not had our challenges, and there are many more to come, but we are so thankful for God’s abundant grace for the transition.  We celebrated together with toasts, cake and sharing stories of our favorite moments of the last 6 months! So much more I could say about this journey but tried to keep this one strictly to running, so to be continued….

olympics sara hall

Sara Hall post Olympic trials thoughts

July 13, 2012

I recently competed at the US Olympic Trials in the 3,000 Steeplechase and fell one lap short of my dream of making the Olympic team. Though it never ceases to be painful when I fall short of attaining a goal, I firmly believe after years in this sport that the journey is what matters more than the final outcome. I want to share some of my journey with you, with hopes that when you too experience the death of a dream, you can perhaps identify with what I have been through.

When I first began competing at the age of 13, winning came easy. In fact, I started competing with the boys because I was winning girls races by over 2 minutes, and even still, usually won or placed 2nd against the boys. Though this fueled my love for running and competing, it also set me up with an “anything less than winning is not acceptable” mentality. As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized how much I was drawing my identity from how successful I was as a runner. If I was competing well, in my eyes I was a success, but if I competed poorly, I saw myself as a failure. Fortunately God used some rough patches in my career to show me that my identity is not based in what I do, but in who He created me to be and who He says that I am. Now I make sure to spend time hearing from God and from others on how God sees me, the plans He has created me for, and shape my identity from that.

Once your identity is secure, than you are free to take risks and go after dreams, because you no longer fear failure. There have been times in my career where I was more nervous I’d fail than excited to succeed- and this was because the failures were shaking my identity. But now that my identity is secure, I rarely ever get that feeling of nervous dread before races, I am excited and peaceful going in, more focused on how much I love to compete and run all-out than worried it might not go well. That is how this whole year has been leading up to the Olympic Trials. Even when some of my steeples early on were sub-par performances, rather than letting that rattle my confidence and let fear enter in, I shifted my focus to what my goal was and how excited I was to be running towards it. The day of the Olympic Trials I experienced so much more peace than in other years, and I am so thankful for God’s grace in growing me in this area.

I have also learned that, unfortunately, as much as we would like them to be, our bodies are not machines and do not always cooperate as we would like them to. After 15 years of competitively racing, I’ve become quite aware of this, and though it can be frustrating at times, I have learned that the number one thing you can focus on is giving your best and walking away from the race with no regrets. When you’ve given your all, you have to trust that even if your best wasn’t good enough, that God will use it to “work all things together for your good” (Romans 8:28).

So what happens when you don’t accomplish your goal? Well, I believe it’s totally normal to get really bummed out, as I did after the Trials. I was devastated and let myself mourn the death of the dream. I had really believed it was going to happen and that Ryan and I were going to walk hand-in-hand into the Opening Ceremonies. But amidst the pain, I intentionally kept my focus looking outward and forward rather than backwards and inwards. Rather than getting really introspective and analyzing what went wrong, why didn’t I have that last gear, what could I have done differently, how did this happen and being tormented by these thoughts, I instead got together with my friends and family and let them embrace me with their unconditional love. I hung out with Jesus and let him encourage me. I picked a new goal and kept moving forward. Then, after some of the frustration and disappointment had worn off, it was a good time to meet with the coach and analyze the race and what we could do to improve both the race and preparation next time. And after a few days, I felt a lot more like myself, because I realized that I don’t just do this solely for the end result, but I do this because I love it and feel called to it, and that doesn’t change when you don’t meet your goal. When you are enjoying the process and letting it shape you as a person along the way you realize the value of the journey.

Another thing I’ve learned is to keep your head up and keep looking for signs of God’s redemptive work. I have already seen little glimpses of how God has used my Olympic Trials race to teach me things, and am constantly looking for what He is up to. It’s always easier to see these things in hindsight and see how His hand has fit all the pieces together perfectly, though at the time we can’t see the full picture.

So what’s next? My attention has now shifted to preparing for some fast races in Europe and supporting Ryan in his final buildup to the Olympic marathon. I am excited to experience the Olympics with him as we usually approach things- as a team, together, even though we won’t be official teammates on Team USA. It will be the culmination of a big season of change for us, where we’ve really had to rely on each other and God for support, so I look forward to seeing it all come together on the streets of London.

We will keep you updated! Thank you so much for the prayers and support, we really appreciate them as we continue this journey!