Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ryan Hall interview


[Ed note: Ryan sat down with long-time running journalist and columnist Steve Nearman in he days preceding the ING NYC Marathon. Major changes are happening in his training, coaching and the place he and his wife Sara call home.]
By Steve Nearman
At New York City Marathon EXPO
Q: The big news last month was about your decision to move from Mammoth and Mammoth Track Club, where you have been training for five years and experiencing great success. You’ve been quoted in the running press about why the decision was right for you but was your wife Sara’s running career taken into account, too?
RH: It was. It was kinda one of those things where I knew exactly what God was telling me to do. And so I starting talking to Sara about that quite a lot. Thinking about the process I felt very strongly that’s what I am supposed to do. So she’s very supportive of that. And to be totally honest, I decided that I was going to go out on my own essentially, and she was still planning on keeping things the same. But [Coach] Terrence [Mahon] didn’t think that would work and so we said let’s not do that. So she had to follow suit and move on to another situation. Sara has gone back to her coach Dena [Evans] when she was at Stanford. She’s excited about it. She’s actually kept in contact with her and asked her advice sometimes.
Q: You have mentioned in articles that you will be training around the United States.
RH: What I want to do is cycle my altitude training so I spend three weeks up and two weeks down. Something along that time frame. So right now I’m thinking about Flagstaff. There is a great therapist there, a guy named John Ball that’s very good. So we want to be close to him and then we have Alicia Shay who is in Flagstaff, and there’s a good running community there. We can go down to sea level if they get a lot of snow or something like that. So that makes a lot of sense. And then in sea level training, we’ll be in Palo Alto, there’s a good running community there, good therapy, we know the area, we love Palo Alto. It’s like home to us. We went to school there [Ryan graduated from Stanford in 2006]. So that’s kinda the plan at this point.
Q: The decision to move – was there a moment or an incident that in your mind you said I need to move? Or was this really something that was growing over a longer period of time?
RH: It’s something that I…you know I’m always listening to where God’s leading me. I was feeling like for a while that maybe change would not only be good for me but good for Sara. it’s like we talked about. There’s something to be said for keeping things fresh. A change of atmosphere sometimes can be just what the doctor ordered. I hadn’t planned on making changes soon but I am feeling very strongly that this is the time. So there was never a one-time thought like, that’s it, I’m leaving or something like that. It was kinda a gradual progression with confirmation after confirmation that this is the time to make some changes not only in location but also how I structure my training. I’ve developed every year, I’ve been doing this for 14 years now and I’ve had a variety of coaches. I know myself really well and I think once you get to my point – I’m very inquisitive and I love to ask questions whether it’s when I’m doing therapy or whether I’m talking to coaches or talking running with people. So I’ve learned a lot about this sport and about my body and right now I just need to be able to be really flexible and do exactly what is right for me on the day. Not necessarily what’s right for my teammates and that’s a hard balance because I love training with people and I love my teammates in Mammoth but I just can’t, right now I need to do what’s right for my body.
Q: Are you worried at all about going out on your own?
RH: Not at all.
Q: If it doesn’t work, you look like you’ve failed?
RH: I’m not worried at all about it. Actually, it’s like the most peace I’ve had – outside of like deciding to marry Sara – it’s like Sara has at times been a little nervous about it but I feel I know it’s the right decision and even if it doesn’t work out and I start running really poorly I will not regret it. Because in order to get to the next level I couldn’t stay where I was, I couldn’t just keep repeating and repeating because I’ve learned that I am very thankful for the performances I’ve had in my recent marathons but at the same time it hasn’t been my best stuff. My body needs to get back to where I’m having my best stuff and as I said I’ve been there for 5 years now and learned a lot from Terrence and from my teammates, and really appreciate all the experiences there but now it’s time to take that knowledge and move forward with it.
Q: Will you actually be training alone?
RH: Yeah.
Q: You can push yourself hard by yourself?
RH: I’ve always preferred it. It’s always been more of a challenge for me to run with a team. I prefer to run by myself. In the races, I still like to run with people because that’s when it’s good to have people push you. I think too often in training people are pushing me harder than I should be going. So that’s why I prefer to work out by myself.
Q: How do you look at Meb’s resurgence and his path back to the top? Does it guide you, motivate you?
RH: It is inspirational. I’ve learned over the years not to compare my path to someone else’s. He’s certainly has shown me that you can go through rough chapters in your career, for years, and come out on the other side the best he’s ever been. He’s hugely inspiring and someone I’ll continue to talk to about my running. We’re neighbors; we live like 300 meters apart. I don’t really work out with people like him because he usually runs faster than I do. We run together every once in a while. We share meals together. His colors have come out during his trials, I’m never seen him really down and depressed or thinking that was the end. He’s always been very hopeful and optimistic.
Q: If you were the new CEO of USA Track & Field, as crazy as that sounds, how would you bring the sport back together?
RH: I’m not an expert in that field but I think we need to find a way to connect the mass running community – running is the hugest sport in the country, there are millions of people running – they feel that they don’t need to follow pro running at all. I don’t know what’s the best way to make that connection yet but we’ve got to find a way to do it. Honesty, I tell you, I think one of the biggest ways is through television. I’m inspired by the Olympics just seeing it on television. I’m like watching, thinking Woa, this is a big deal. If I didn’t see it on television, I wouldn’t mean anything to me.
Q: Sure, once every four years. We need to make it once a weekend…
RH: At least New York, Boston, really get it out there on TV. I think it’s coming around a little bit but I think that takes a lot of money.
Q: Obviously, you got bitten by the running bug early in life and have had a lot of success as a youth as well as a pro. How do we keep our young athletes interested in running cross country and track and field beyond high school and college?
RH: That’s a good question. I think doing things together, having more running teams, more opportunities to compete for collegians and post-collegians, kids out of high school, connecting people. That could go a long way toward keeping kids interested in the sport.
Q: How would you inspire more youth to get in better shape other than the groups you have mentioned?