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.