Ryan Hall, the legendary American distance runner who twice represented the United States in Olympic marathon competitions before leaving the sport this past January, continues to run post-retirement. But you may not recognize him on race day.
Hall, who was down to 127 pounds at the time of his retirement, has shifted his focus to rebuilding a body that had been depleted through years of competition. Making an appearance at the half-marathon XTERRA Trail Run Championships in Honolulu last Sunday, Hall was a sturdy 170 after changing his regimen to two-hour daily weight training sessions. Except for the occasional run with his wife or one-off competition, Hall has not been keeping a routine running schedule and did not train for the race in Hawaii.
Predictably, the result wasn't his best. Hall, who holds the U.S. record for 13.1 miles (59:43), finished 18th, with a time of 1:43:39, 26 minutes behind winner Joe Gray.
Nevertheless, Hall is pleased with the new direction his fitness is taking. "I have a different, more athletic, and stronger body now," he told Runners World. I would have a better chance at winning American Ninja Warrior than I would winning this race.”
The extra muscle may have slowed Hall down, but he feels better overall. “I think it helps to be strong. Now I can squat way more than I could ever do when I was running seriously. I can sprint faster than I could before, but doing the distance with the extra weight… it’s not an advantage if you’re going longer than a half a mile. I feel stronger in general, though.”
Hall has had no difficulty channeling his legendary intensity into his new goals. In Hawaii he arose at between 4 and 5 a.m. for sessions at 24 Hour Fitness before spending the rest of the day snorkeling and hiking. Sunday's race was a reminder of just how daunting his old pursuits could be.
Hall says he did next to no research on the course, which climbs up to 1,700 feet and features waterfalls and slick, muddy terrain. The lush landscape, which is often used for film sets, also features treacherous declines with ropes provided for safety. “I was walking down and people were flying past me. I thought, ‘I can’t believe people run down this.’ I was taking zero risk.”
The new, more buff version of the running legend may not be selling out to win races any longer, but that doesn't mean he has sold himself or his fitness goals short. Nor have we seen the last of the Hall family in competition mode. In Sunday's race, Ryan’s younger brother, Chad Hall, placed third. And each of Hall's four daughters were entrants as well: His older girls won their age groups in the 5K, and the younger girls ran the kids’ race. Excellence, it seems, runs in the family.