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.
God bless and good luck in the next chapter, Ryan. You’ll still have many fans for the work you do off the course.
I have looked up to you for a very long time as a runner and a mentor. Your YouTube workout videos inspired me to go out and run on days I didn’t want to, and seeing pictures of your family on Instagram helped me to understand that running can be translated into many different aspects of building a positive and happy life. It saddened me to hear that you retired today, but I am positive that you will continue to contribute to the running community and the world for many years to come. Enjoy Man! Good luck to you, Sarah and your children in your future aspirations! EAT THOSE PANCAKES FOR TOP NOTCH RECOVERY! 😉
Thanks for years of inspiration and a lifetime of faithfulness to what God put in your heart. Love your heart for following God wherever he leads!
Sad story Ryan, Gotta smoke? These are my roads now. And if I have to one day run on all 4’s. Then maybe it couldn’t happen to a better man.
I had read an interview, forgive me for not remembering which one, where you talked about your low T. I had mixed feelings when you said you refused to take synthetic T. Part of me applauded your desire to not cross that TPU line. The other part of me new what that refusal would more than likely bring about. Your overall health and well being is what is most important. Deciding to not go synthetic and giving up your God Given talent and dreams wasn’t easy. You should be commended and I honestly believe God has better things planned for you ahead. “it was an amazing season of my life but it always had to have an end.” I needed to hear those words now as my own running adventures begin to come to an end. I’m moving on to the next chapter in my life and because of your words I’m looking hopefully into that next chapter, eagerly awaiting for it to be written.
Than you Ryan for all you have done and given to this sport and may God Bless you and yours!
You are such an inspiration! Enjoy your retirement.
From a former competitive (HS) runner and continued fan and follower of the sport, thank you for all the contributions and an amazing career. I wish you the best in the new chapter in life. Also, my wife’s cousin is married to Jeremy Riddle, who I think you know, and he has told me before you all are an amazing couple, which I did not doubt at all! You were very blessed in running but also worked hard. As someone who never ran faster than 4:38 1600 in HS, I’m glad you always knew your blessings! What a running legacy you left, with more but different contributions to come! All the best from a fan. Best of luck to Sara in ’16. –Michael Knott
Congratulations on an amazing career Ryan. Always loved watching you run. Best wishes for the future.
You da man Ryan. Many great accomplishments. Many more great ones to come! Cheers.
Are you going to start coching
Thank you and good luck in all you do in the future. You were a big inspiration to me and many regular Joe’s who trains and runs marathons. Hope to see you coaching and being involved in the running community for years to come.
My wife, Lynn, our daughter Annalyn and I met you and Sara at the Runner’s World Heroes of Running Awards banquet in Manhattan in 2007 on the evening of the day that you won the Olympic Marathon trials. Lynn and I were also honored as Heroes of Running that day (we race together with me pushing Lynn in her wheelchair). You were so gracious even though you had a lot going through your mind after your victory but also after losing your friend Ryan Shay the same day. I just wanted to say thank you for spending some time with us and we wish you and Sara the best in your future endeavors. And congrats on your new additions to your family. If you’re ever in the Chicago area, look us up and we’ll all go for a run. God bless.
Ryan – congratulations on realizing a dream and sharing your inspiration with so many others! You already have been a successful coach to many of us that have learned much from simply watching and listening to you on your own runs. And as someone several decades older than you, I encourage you to continue to run recreationally, for your own personal good health and joy. Very best to you, Sara, and your family going forward!
Very happy for all of your accomplishments. Glad that you’ve made the decision, however, to quit running competitively. Hope you don’t stop running altogether.
Ryan- Thank you for your amazing running career. You are a true inspiration. Always in the mix with the very best runners in the world and often leading the way. You definitely raised the bar for other Americans. Good luck and God bless you and your wonderful family.
Your running journey has continued to be an inspiration for many, including myself. Thank you for giving it everything so that other can learn how to do the same. Dave
You’ve accomplished so much and inspried so many…including me! You should find considerable comfort in knowing you’ve been the best possible ambassador for our sport and our country.
I wish you well in your next chapter of life. I’m sure it will be as significant and compelling as the others!
Thank you, Ryan, for your example of commitment to excellence and Christ-like priorities. Your selfless brilliance at Boston in 2014 is one of my favorite sports stories of all time. Team USA marathoners will sorely miss your integrity and leadership. Keeping serving your daughters, wife, and God well! You’re a blessing.
I, too, was thinking of that race. As we age, we have an opportunity to run more consciously, more in tune, more relaxed. I will remember as a fierce competitor, who was one of the most generous guys on the planet. God bless you and yours going forward.
I’m gutted for you Ryan but at the same time really happy for you. Loved watching you run, from a far here in the UK. Your running style was,always so exciting and adventurous, hope you carry this through with you in helping & teaching others. Even at my age and state of non fitness I have running heroes, you were one! All the very best to you, I look forward to following your further exploits.
Ryan (and Sara), thank you for building a legacy inspiring other runners to follow not just in passion and heart, but in faith and Hope towards Jesus! Your beautiful family now continues that legacy. Thank you, thank you. I pray Jesus continues to be your source, your guide, your comfort, and your strength.
Ryan, thank you for your inspiration. Watching you, Meb, and Abdi run in London inspired me to run my first marathon. God’s blessings on you as you focus on the other gifts He’s given to you. Being a dad is much harder than running a marathon. Peace in Christ!
I’ve always been inspired by you guys–especially the monumental work that is done through the Hall Steps foundation. I keep a running journal and whenever I write about both you and Sara I refer to you as “this beautiful Christian couple who also runs…” We are people first and you both set a shining example to show what it looks like to follow the voice of God–even when it leads you on paths that might deviate from your own personal gain.
So powerful. Looking forward seeing the things that God does through you in this new chapter of life!
What a testimony of faith in what God had planned for your life. We all wish you could run forever…aren’t you a superhuman? Just kidding! Congrats on your record-setting career and your amazing achievements. You will be missed but not forgotten!!!
Very sad to see you stop. But you have to know your presence in the sport and focus on jesus as #1 were such a huge inspiration for me. Congratulations on your career!
Congratulations Ryan on an unbelievable career. As a forty year old I remember you back n the high school days crushing the mile and battling the best in the US. I then watched you crush it at the NCAA level and eventually become a 2:04 marathoner. That range is ridiculous a true God given gift. Even I I have seen results where you have struggled recently I always looked back at everything you accomplished and thought he is going to pop a good one again soon. I am excited to see what you do with your energy over the next chapter of your life. If you give as much as you did to running we are all going to be in for a treat. Good luck ryan.
Congratulations on your retirement! Y’all have a great story and hope the future brings nothing but laughs:-)
The gift of running….. “Run the good race”. “Run keeping your eyes on Jesus” (I had this Hebrews 12:2 quote on the front of my shirt for the one year I ran Boston Marathon – and found it not only an inspiration to me, but many in the crowds made note too!). But I think my all time favorite running quote is from 1 Kings 18:46 – “The power of the LORD came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel”. What a powerful picture! I stood on Mount Carmel in 2005, and looking out thinking of this verse … it was interesting to note the distance ran was equivalent to a marathon! To think of the time of prayer that Elizah had gone through prior to that “small cloud” appearing, and then his preparation – tucking up his robe. But the source to do something amazing, is clearly stated as the “power of the Lord coming upon Elijah” ….. and what waited for Elijah after his outrunning Ahab’s chariot ahead of the storm …. a new mission of work from God. I was in London in 2012 to watch the marathon. Standing in front of St Paul’s Cathedral on that sunny Sunday morning, I was certainly cheering for our three very excellent Canadian runners … but truth told, I was most excited to have a chance to watch you Ryan. – to pass by not once but three times! It was not to be on this day, and now I read your reference to this, as not an ending, but a start on a new mission from God. In the same way that the gift of running was revealed to you, and you ran in that gift; let the power of the Lord come on you, and your family, running ahead to the work he has given you now. Thank you for your openness to share your journey … and all the best going forward. (and maybe someday I yet have a chance to see you run … there is certainly something beautiful of seeing someone moving in the gift God has given them! Terry
Congrats on a long and successful career. You may be hanging up the racing flats but the real race has just begun. The race of life, family, and fatherhood. It goes by so quickly. Enjoy the miles ahead with the time you have on this Earth with the ones you love. Your memories of the victories, records, and success may be in the past, but there are so many others you will share with your family ahead. You were a great Runner, but more than that, a great role model through your faith and personality. Best of luck to you with your future!!
Bitter sweet. I’m completely bummed but I’m also not surprised at all. Didn’t you two just adopt several beautiful young ladies. Ever since then (being a runner and daddy of young children myself) I’ve been wondering “how the heck are they going to pull all this off?”
Now we know! Sigh, I’m also jealous. I’ll retire from teaching when I’m like 78 or something. You get to enjoy “retirement” already ha ha!
Gonna miss watching you in the running fields around the world but you deserve the chance to get 100% and to enjoy your family! Enjoy. make the best of it and God bless you Ryan and your beautiful family. Thanks for being an inspiration to so many including myself PTL!
My husband and I are both runners, and I can attest to the fact that some of my proudest and happiest memories are watching him win a race or set a huge PR. You had an amazing career. Thank you for all your contributions to US running.
Thank you for your faith in Jesus Christ and your inspiration in life & running! We have been blessed by you!
Your career began in the mountains and it should go back to it’s root. I think you should explore the “Ultra” scene. Your body might find the love again. The money is not as great, the races are harder, and there is little media coverage, but the community is welcoming, walking is encouraged, and the vista’s are inspiring.
Thank you for all the memories and the example you have given to the running world. Your dedication, resolve and approachability as a world class athlete sets you apart from many others. I hope the next chapter in your running career is as satisfying and fulfilling as this chapter has been. Again thank you. Harold S.
Thank you (to you and Sara) for being an inspiration to so many, not only in your running but also in your faith. I will still be cheering Sara on in her career. God bless you and your beautiful family!
Ryan, you have always been an inspiration. I ran in high school and in my late 20s/early 30s. I just started jogging again (I despise the word), but after 6 calf tears during my 20s/30s….I can do 200m repeats anymore!
You’re an inspiration to me more than just a runner. Your priorities are an inspiration. God first, family second, running or whatever next. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with your fans.
I have to say that the only thing I am disappointed in is that i have not had the chance to meet you yet. You have encouraged me in my own amateur running although I have never been 5′ 10′ and 135 lbs. (5′ 7” and 135 at my lightest though and I am 49 next Wednesday.) That said, I am looking forward to meeting both you and Sara in paradise if not here when Christ returns or we individually go home to him someday. God bless and enjoy.
I read your blog post after I posted this on flo track:
“Ryan Hall has been extremely successful in the running world. We all must move on at some point in our lives, make changes….develop new dreams. We need an end goal that is eternal. Ryan has done a beautiful job of role modeling and inspiring us with his grace and purpose in life.”
Blessings on you and your precious family!
Ryan you are an inspiration to me. I wish I could talk to you. I’m going through an awful injury that I have been traveling the USA to get an answer or solution to, and modern medicine just can’t fix my injury. I am a former D1 athlete and post-collegiate marathoner as well. I feel inspired by the way you’ve not only run and your contributions to American distance running, but also by the way you have handled long-tern injury and health issues very graciously and positively. You sharing your story over the past year or so has, at times, kept me going and forced me to smile through the pain and many set backs and unsuccessful surgeries I have endured over the past year. I took a year off this year. I’m still in pain and waiting for my next surgery. God bless you. You’re the sort of role model that really makes a positive impact in people’s lives – people like me.
thank you Ryan for setting a faith-centered relationship for the entire running community! You have inspired me to use the running gift that God has given me to bring others closer to Him. I pray for you, Sara and your daughters that you may continue to serve Him courageously and joyfully. Thank You for all you have done! God bless
Keep UP the GOOD Work Ryan Hall !
I’ve just read the article about your decision to retire in the NYT. I’ve just read your blog and have been very moved by what you wrote and what you did. I am not 100% sure, because I don’t know your entire story, but your body might have a hard time recovering for other reasons than just the extreme training and performance you’ve asked of it. Some specific traumatic memory might have been locked up in your biology, keeping your adrenals low and the rest off. If you connect with this/these memories and heal them, your body will be able to heal. God has put all his love and intelligence and strength in our bodies, that’s why our bodies are much more complex than what science and medicine write about them. There is also something extremely archetypal playing out in your life as you are retiring at 33 years old, a very Christic age. If what I wrote talks to you, then feel free to contact me and I will help you (for free). Whatever you decide I wish you and all your beautiful family the best of life and love and His Light. Take good care, Carpe diem
Ryan- I am so thankful for you over these past few years. As a young runner myself, I look up to you not only on a physical level but a spiritual level as well. Your consistent trust in God during the good times and bad is truly admirable. I was so thankful to meet you and have dinner with you when you came to my church to speak in phoenix. I will pray for your continued race of raising up three daughters. Thanks for everything. 1 Corinthians 9:26 “So I run with purpose in every step. “
I’m always rooting for you! Congrats on an amazing career and cheers to great things to come!!
What a great attitude. Thank you for sharing. It’s inspiring to read your story of God communicating to your spirit when you were thirteen, and then to know all that it would lead to. Congratulations from Zambia and from a fellow Stanford alum.
Great career duder. You inspired and entertained for decades. Thank you.
You’ve had an inspiring running career! Congratulations on all that you’ve achieved with God’s help! I pray for God’s blessings on you in this new chapter of life!
Congratulations it take courage to recognize what youre doing!! Like the way you give the glory to God!! This new chapter is going to be great with yore new big family!! I had the chance to meet you when you came to Guatemala few years ago!! And you always where someone i look up to!!! Well done??
Thank u ，Ryan Hall . You inspired me!!
Ryan you have been the biggest inspiration for me I love running I am 18 years old now and I have Never hesitated to try to be the best runner I can be When I was eight I am lost most of my vision so I am now legally blind but the inspiration you gave me Help get the rooms of that year and now I am running the best I ever had been thanks to you . I loved watching your videos on YouTube and learning from I thank your videos on YouTube and learning from your wedding you.
Ryan, I have never met you but I have read your story and the amazing things God has fueled you to do. Wow! and it all started with that 15 mile run. I stopped running right after High School 35 years ago and I began running again in April 2015. I had been through years of training with everything but running and then I fell off to -0- activity. After 2009 and health issues, I woke up one day walked into my Doctor’s office in 2014 and said….I’m going to start running again and I plan to train until I qualify for Boston in 2018-19. I then asked “is there any reason I cannot do this?” He looked up at me and said “Go live your life, if you decide to climb Mount Everest, give me a call, I’ll go with you!” With that, I have never looked back. I have a long way to go but I will make my goal, somehow, someway, I know that because it will be because God has made it possible. I also accept He is the center of my life. It is not our choice, He is already there. Whether we choose to engage him and receive Him is our choice. Thank you for allowing us to walk down memory lane with you and also share all of these years the amazing things you have done with your talents. I will close with this. All is not lost, when we have already been found, He has had us in His embrace all this time, none has caught Him by surprise. He is behind us and before us as well as beside us. We are winning still, every day! We are Victorious in Him! I’ll be praying for you and you can do the same for me as we continue the most magnificent journey, we have already seen! And now again, the most magnificent journey we shall ever see! ……” that journey is whatever He has in store for you and me next” Let’s keepour eye on the real prize! God Bless you Sara and the entire family!
Isaiah 30:21New International Version (NIV)
21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
You have been awesome to watch over the last 10-15 years. You are a great inspiration on the course but maybe more importantly in the work you do off the course. God bless you and Sara and your kids and your future endeavors.
Great article Ryan! Congratulations on a fantastic running career. It’s been so much fun to watch your journey. Excited to see what the Lord has next for you.
You are and always have been a class act—a humble, gracious man and an incredibly gifted and gutsy athlete. I was bummed to hear that you’re retiring, but am happy for you as you embark on this next chapter with your family. Godspeed.
Devastated of hearing the news. I’m Belgian and always was a huge fan of Ryan. To tribute his career i even wrote a blog (vanaandezijlijn.blogspot.com) about him. Hope you do well in further life.
Well written, Ryan! I’ve been a big fan of yours since watching you compete in the De Anza League back in the day. You have been an inspiration to us all. Best of luck in the next chapter of your life.
I am going to really miss you on the competitive circuit. You were one of the best…I have followed you for years and was so happy for all of you when you adopted the girls…Sara and the four of them will keep you busy, that’s for sure…all the best to your new non injury life
Your finish at the 2008 Olympic Trials will continue to inspire me on those dark, cold winter mornings. Thank you for giving me such a great runner to look up to.
Rest up and embrace the next challenge. Best wishes from London,
Thanks for being an inspiration as an athlete and as a person. I know many have been encouraged by your walk with the Lord and seeing you handle adversity & triumph. May the Lord guide you & Sara as you raise a family and continue to be a light for Jesus!
Thank you for your years of hard work and dedication to the sport, and for always setting such an amazing Christian example, and being a great role model for many. I have enjoyed cheering for you over the years, and meeting you and your beautiful wife before the LA marathon last year at the Fairmont after the shake out run with the other bloggers. I teared up when I told you in person I was so thankful for a Christian man to be standing up for his faith like you do, and I still feel the same way. So, thank you! You and Sara are one of the main reasons I wanted to be an ASICS blog ambassador, and I am proud to represent the same brand that you have represented, as well as representing Christ. Good luck to you and your family, and I look forward to following along with yall in 2016!
You have no idea how much your running has meant to me (and countless others!!) over the past many years. You made running so exciting to watch. I’ll never forget being at work back in 2011, streaming the Boston Marathon on my desktop. I was jumping out of my seat with joy. Later that day I went for my own run, grinning like a fool from ear to ear.
I watched your FloTrack documentary three separate times this past year, because quite frankly, no other runner inspires like you do. Your talent truly is transcendent/other-worldly, and I’m so sad to see you retire but hopefully we’ll see you back in some capacity soon!!!! 🙂
Thanks Ryan! You have, and continue to be, an inspiration. I am an older runner who started late so I am still setting PRs at 56. I wonder what life would have been like if my dad would have run around the lake with me at 13. But God has been so faithful. You remain one of my running heros. I also have a ministry in the Kitale area. I’m really proud of the work you are doing there. I know God will continue to open many doors for you and Sara.