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Pro Recovery Tips!

April 13, 2016

There is no doubt that after a hard race your body can feel completely waxed, like you will never run another race in your life. This is how Sara felt coming out of her first marathon. She then had another major event less than two weeks away, so she really had to recoup. Remarkably, she was able to rebound in time for the World Cross Country Championships and be the first American to cross the finish line.

How did she do it? Recovery—something that’s key to racing, and really, any fitness plan. Here’s how Sara and I recover from races so we can prep for the next ones—listed in order of what to do, first.

Step 1: Refuel at the Finish Line

Replace calories and fluids as soon as possible after a race. You just caused serious trauma to your muscles and in order for them to heal, you need to replenish them with adequate hydration and nutrition. Note: It won’t always be easy. Sometimes your stomach won’t cooperate right after a race, and it may feel like you’re force-feeding yourself. But do it: Your body is starving for the building blocks it needs to get stronger. (You can also incorporate liquid calories (like chocolate milk, or a shake), if your stomach is too finicky about hard foods).

Aim to take in 300 calories of carbohydrate (it can vary depending on the length and intensity of your race). Bonus: You can also eat simple sugar to help replace glycogen in your muscles. For Sara and myself, this sometimes means chowing down on gummy bears—the only time we’ll do it.

We also make sure to consume 20 grams (which can be more or less depending on your size and run intensity) of protein, usually in powdered form, for a shake.

Whatever you choose, make sure your recovery nutrition isn’t high in fat, as that could slow digestive absorption.

Step 2: Go For a Walk or Jog

The worst thing you can do is sit for several hours immediately following a race. Instead, it’s important to bring new blood to your muscles, to help flush any toxins that have built up, and speed recovery. Once you finish a race, walk for at least 20 minutes, and if you’re up to it, try some light jogging.

Sara and I typically jog for 20 minutes to cool down, however after a marathon I may just walk and call it good. It depends on how much energy I have left. After I ran 2:06 in the London Marathon, I did jog a couple of miles—but those were probably the slowest miles I’ve ever run in my life.

(Optional) Step 3: Boost Circulation with Ice Bath and/or Massage

Soak your legs in contrast baths—meaning tubs with hot and cold water—within a couple hours post-race to boost blood flow. When we trained at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA, we would often spend 5 minutes in a cold bath set to 50-55 degrees, and then go directly into a hot bath for 5 minutes. We would alternate between hot and cold tubs until we had been in each three times.

If you have two bathrooms in your home, you can fill one tub with a few bags of ice and cold water, and fill the second tub with hot water. If that’s not possible (you only have one bathroom), opt for a 10-minute ice bath. Repeat the ice bath after another two or three hours. (Or you could make do with alternating cold and hot showers.)

Sara and I have also spent many moments together soaking our legs in icy creeks and lakes around the world. Finding a beautiful body of water to soak in keeps your mind off the freezing pain until your legs go numb.

If your budget allows, massage is one of the more pleasurable post-race recovery routines, and can be done instead of, or in addition to, your optional ice bath. If you can’t afford a professional massage, you can always recruit your significant other (Sara and I often work on each other) or get a foam roller and a softball and roll your legs out while watching a movie—a regular scene in the Hall house.

Step 4: REST!

Time off is key. I would often take two complete weeks off following marathons. I later decided to jog 30 minutes for two subsequent days after the race before taking my complete break, to help reduce soreness.

Why rest? Your body needs time to regenerate for your next big training phase. I neglected this step after running the London marathon in 2:06 in 2008—I was so excited to train for the Beijing Olympics that I didn’t give my body enough time, and my performance at the Games paid the price. I’m sharing this so you can learn from my mistake.

If you run a shorter race, you may not need two weeks—a few days of rest after a 5K would suffice, for example. Just make sure to only rest—which means no cycling, strength sessions, or other forms of cross training.


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?


My Running Dream

January 16, 2016

By Ryan Hall


It all started in a day dream, looking out over the waters of Big Bear Lake on a car ride to a middle school basketball game.  I was 13 years old and was hit with a vision that I should attempt a 15-mile run around the lake, despite the fact that the only running I was doing at the time was chasing a ball.  The next Saturday I laced up my running shoes and took the first steps that would change the trajectory of my life forever.

It took more than three hours later my Dad and I finished the long, painful, mind-numbing run.  It wasn’t pretty, but I made it – and then I walked straight to the couch and collapsed in exhaustion.  Anyone looking at me in that state would have thought I had just run both my first and last official run, but in that moment something happened. I was inspired. I felt in my spirit that God was communicating to me that I would one day run with the best runners in the world.


After that day my previous hatred of running gave way to a relentless, dedicated pursuit of my vision.  I dropped baseball, basketball and football and poured all of my energy into running, not letting any distractions get in my way.  It was in those early days, training through the snow, running up the ski resort’s double black diamond runs, and flying through the windy single-track mountain trails, that the foundation was laid for everything that followed.


And what followed was exactly what I had seen in my mind’s eye that day as a 13-year-old: running with the best guys in the world. Becoming the first American to break an hour in the half marathon, competing in two Olympic Games, finishing in the top five of many of the biggest marathons in the world, and even helping to create arguably the most historic marathon of all-time – leading much of the 2011 Boston Marathon, in which two athletes ran significantly faster than any other marathon had ever been run, and personally finishing in a time that I never thought would be possible to become the fastest American of all-time.  I reflect on these achievements not with pride, but with humility, for I know that I was only faithful to the gift I had been given.


Now it’s time to start a new chapter of my life.  Running with the best guys in the world was never meant to last forever – it was an amazing season of my life but it always had to have an end.  I have demanded a lot from my body and it gave me everything it could for 20 years, but at this time I am convinced there is nothing left for it to give.  Which is why I have decided to stop running at a competitive level and begin the process of giving back to my body rather than demanding more from it.  This decision was not made in haste, but rather has been a gradual process as I have felt my body change.  Nagging injuries such as the hamstring tendentious I developed in the 2012 Olympic Marathon continue to bother me and throw off my mechanics to this day.  It has been made very clear to me that while my heart and mind still want to perform at my best, my body is no longer able to.  I am proud of my best days, but even prouder of the many, many very bad days that I had to pick myself up from.  Perhaps one of the biggest gifts running has given me is the ability to be resilient.


I am so thankful for the amazing people I have met through running.  The running community is truly a special and powerful group of people and it has changed my life.  If it weren’t for running, I would never have met my wife, Sara, my kids, or many of my closest friends.  I am grateful for the places running has taken me.  Growing up in a big family, I hardly left California before I started running, but now I’ve traveled the world, raced in some of the most beautiful places in the world, and experienced many different cultures.  Running has taught me so many life lessons and helped shape me as a person.  These are the biggest rewards that will transcend my running career and serve me well for the rest of my life.  I am also thankful for my sponsors who have allowed me to pursue my sport to the highest level possible and provided the best product in the world to help me strive for my goals.  Without the support of my sponsors, family and friends, I wouldn’t be where I am today.


Running will always be a part of my life and now I look forward to helping others to reach their running goals, starting with my wife, who I am coaching for the upcoming Olympic Trials.  It has been fun for me to recently be beside her on the bike, encouraging her, seeing her grow, and even getting the same chills for her that I used to get when I was having a really good day out on the road.  I also hope that my running career has and will continue to lead to other peoples’ breakthroughs, both out on the road and in their hearts through participation in our Steps Foundation, running clinics, books, videos and just being a part of the amazing running community.


I will always look back at my running career with a smile on my face and thankfulness in my heart.  Many, many thanks to everyone who has cheered for me, encouraged me, and supported me on my journey.  I was never alone out on the race course.


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