Q & A with Ryan Hall: Marathoner Extraordinaire

Ryan Hall is the fastest American marathoner on the road today with a personal best of 2:06:17. He won the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2007 and owns the American half-marathon record. For Ryan, running is spiritual, and is part of an overall holistic lifestyle. If you had to pick a professional athlete as a role model for your son or daughter, Ryan would be a slam-dunk.

We talked to Ryan about everything from his tips for first time marathoners, his thoughts on nutrition, visualization, and even his Steps Foundation, which aims to end global poverty.

MindBodyGreen: What's the biggest life lesson you've learned from running?

Ryan Hall: Ironically, one of the biggest life lessons I've learned is not to compare myself to others. In a sport where the name of the game is all about how you stack up to the rest of the world I have found that I run my best when I am focused on what I am doing and not caught up in how I stack up to the guys around me. Over my career as a marathoner I have been able to not get discouraged when other runners throw in surges and still manage to come back and finish very high in the race, largely because I didn't get discouraged because other people were (at the time) doing better than me. I try and find satisfaction in the completion of the journey rather than what place I come in.

MBG: Any tips for someone who's running their first marathon?

RH: Along those lines I would say run your own race. Pay attention to your body and run accordingly, but at the same time you must believe that your body is capable of even more than you believe. Stay focused on the task at hand, not the miles ahead or the miles that have past. Stay in the moment.  Pray.

MBG: What do you eat the morning of a marathon?

RH: I actually don't eat anything. I say that laughingly because I drink a shake composed of 1 scoop of Cytomax Whey Protein and six scoops of Cytomax Cytocarb (a maltodextrin based complex carb).  

MBG: Do you follow any nutrition rules? What is your philosophy on food?

RH: I am always learning about nutrition and my "rules" are constantly changing. I try and eat as natural and organic as possible without being anal about it. I emphasis lots of organic fruits and veggies. I have also learned that eating raw veggies before eating a substantial amount of carbs (more than 200 calories from carbohydrate) slows down digestion of those carbs and helps those carbs go to muscle rather than fat. I try and eat many small meals throughout the day and always make sure to have breakfast before I run.  

MBG: Do you cross-train?

RH: Not unless I am injured or coming back from a break. I recommend running as much as your body will allow but I guess if you aren't trying to break 2:06 for the marathon you could substitute some biking or swimming occassionally instead of a run.  

MBG: Do you have a favorite race to run?

RH: Well, I have to be judicial with picking a favorite. I would say they are all unique and fun for different reasons. I really shouldn't say much more than that.  

MBG: Does visualization play a role in your race prep?

RH: Absolutely. There is no doubt about the impact that visualization has on performance. The manner in which I visualize has changed over the years. In high school I used to put on Rocky IV and lay on the carpet in my room with my uniform and track spikes on and picture the race, lap by lap. Today, I have found that the most impactful way to visualize is while I am running. I visualize during my workouts primarily now which not only helps my races but also my workouts.

MBG: Favorite healthy food?

RH: I love sweet potatoes!

MBG: What does MindBodyGreen mean to you?

RH: MindBodyGreen to me means living a healthy, all encompassing lifestyle, meaning not just taking care of yourself but then trashing the world but realizing that we are all contributors to this world and have the responsibility to take care of it for our greater good and the generations to come.  What I like about mind/body/green is that it is a holistic lifestyle much in the same way that running is a holistic lifestyle. Whereas in other professional sports one can stay up late and not take great care of themselves in running it is about moment by moment taking great care of your mind, body, and soul.  

MBG: Can you tell our readers about the Steps foundation? How it started, what you're doing, how our readers can get involved?

RH: My wife and I are really excited to be apart of the Hall Steps Foundation. The basic goal is to end global poverty. Big and broad I know but that's what we are going after. We realize that the only way to accomplish this goal is to get as many people to take steps with us. It has been amazing to see the response thus far. For readers who are interested they can check out our website at TheStepsFoundation.org. People can run any race and fundraise or do something as simple as not drink coffee from coffee shops and make their own instead and donate the money saved.  

MBG: What's next for you?

RH: I'll be running Rock n' Roll Philidelphia half marathon on my way to my big goal for the fall: the Chicago Marathon.

For more on Ryan Hall:

RyanandSaraHall.com

TheStepsFoundation.org

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