by, Ryan Hall
Today I am writing from our home in Flagstaff, Arizona. We have been having a warm winter, and training on dirt roads at 7,000 ft in the warm sun is a runners paradise considering it’s January. My heart goes out to the East coasters that haven’t had the same glorious conditions.
My training has been progressing since my hip injury’s resolution. I shaved my 3 month old beard off on News Day as part of a declaration of 2014 being a new year for me. I also set a goal of being healthy to run every day in 2014, which so far I have been able to keep. I think this maybe be the longest I’ve kept a New Year’s Resolution!
Recently I was in middle of my first workout since coming to altitude (10 by 1,000 meters w/2 minutes rest) and was having a humbling experience. It was one of those workouts that mentally go either way. I had a choice. Depending on my perspective the workout was either going to get real bad, real quick or I could choose the hard path (mentally speaking) and see the good in the midst of my suffering and get through the workout. While I was mentally coaching myself through this tough session I began thinking about what gives people the power to conquer tough circumstances in life. I began to think of tough situations that Jesus faced and how He worked through them.
One story that came to mind when I thought of Jesus overcoming was the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. Jesus found himself in the middle of desert with thousands of people who had walked miles and miles just be with him and they were out of food, except 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.
Now, I’ve heard this story many times and it’s easy to just gloss over it without realizing how dire of a situation this was. This was a potential life and death situation for thousands of people. So how did Jesus overcome it? He fixed his eyes on God and gave thanks for what He had. To me, it didn’t seem like Jesus spent too much time focused on the great challenge that surrounded him. He found a way, in the midst of his circumstances, to set his focus on the one person who nothing is impossible for. Then he took what God had already given Him and thanked Him for it. The interesting thing is that He didn’t even ask God to multiply the loaves or fish. How crazy is that?! He didn’t even ask for a miracle. He just started handing out food and He so knew that God would give him everything that he needed for that situation that he didn’t even have to ask God for it. And, so the story goes that not only did God give enough food for everyone to eat their full, but He gave them a surplus, an overflow.
There are two simple truths here that helped me get through my challenging workout. First, I set my focus on God, not on my watch, not on my splits, not on comparing my workouts to anyone else’s workout or any of my past workouts, I set my focus on God. When I do this, running becomes an act of worship to God and no longer about me and my fitness. Then I give God thanks for the energy and healthy body He was giving me for that workout.
The funny thing is that this time, there wasn’t, what an outsider would call, a miraculous turnaround to my workout (though I have experienced miracles). I didn’t all of a sudden start crushing it. However, I did find that with this new spirit of God-centered thankfulness, my body relaxed and I did start running faster and managed to accomplish what is always my number one goal for any race or workout: to maximize my potential for that day. I can’t always have a PR race or a PR workout but I can alway get 100% out of my body what it has inside of it for each day.
I cringe to think what could have happened if I didn’t turn my bad attitude around and I am thankful that Jesus modeled to me how to get through tough times- by being thankful for what you have in the moment.
In what I see as the 2nd chapter of my professional running career since leaving the Mammoth Track Club 3 years ago, I’ve experienced some great highs and low lows. The highs of running 2:04 and making my 2nd Olympic team and the lows of having to DNF in the most important race and not making it to the starting line in others. I’ve gotten injured from training too hard while under a coach, and gotten injured from training too hard while being self (faith) coached. In some ways, it feels like much longer than 3 years with all I’ve experienced.
My recent injury, an overuse injury of bursitis in my hip, was the hardest one for me emotionally. After having injuries keep me from previous marathons, I really wanted to toe the line at the New York City Marathon and have redemption. If it was just a matter of losing some fitness I would have considered it, but the risk of further injury as my hip was not yet 100% made the decision clear. But I am trying to learn self-control- Sometimes you have to say no to good things in order to experience great things.
It’s in moments like these that your reasons and motivations you do what you do crystalize. I don’t run for a paycheck, for fame, or to meet others’ expectations. I run to test the limits of my God given ability and go after the dreams He has put in my heart- big dreams. I make choices in training that I believe are going to be the best thing for me to meet those goals- both in the short term and long term. But I also push the envelope, I’m not afraid to take risks. I’m not trying to train conservatively to run 2:09, I’m preparing to run 2:04. That has meant unfortunately I haven’t made it to the starting line of every marathon I was entered to run, just as the Kenyan guys who also train to run 2:04 experience. But the process has been needed to learn how hard is too hard. This is the balancing act of elite marathon training. Self-control is more needed when self-coached but I find it interesting that some of the best marathoners in the world are also self-coached (including previous World Record Holder Patrick Makau and fastest man ever at the marathon Geoffrey Mutai).
I wouldn’t want to live this last year over again. However, I believe that God wastes nothing when you give your life to Him- he redeems it all. And the trials actually prepare you for the victories because of what you learn. I am now more prepared to know the limits of how hard I can train, and training to that limit is what is going to be required of me to reach the goals I have. I have grown in perseverance and my ability to relate to others in pain and injury. I have grown in my appreciation for racing itself. I have seen the support the running community can offer and the potential to inspire, and I have also seen how the running community can treat you like a Roman gladiator- only interested in me putting on a good show but not really in me as a person or my health. I have grown closer to God as I have had to depend on Him and His Spirit to encourage me and teach me to thrive despite my circumstances.
I appreciate the support of my sponsors and fans who believe in me and look forward to celebrating moments of redemption with you in the future. Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas and a great start to a New Year!