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The Last 26: Running With Ryan Hall

Ryan Hall is one of the most decorated American distance runners of all time. Among his many accomplishments, Hall is the current U.S. record holder for the half marathon and marathon.

USN: When you don’t feel like running, how do you motivate yourself to train?

Ryan: I make myself get out the door. Usually once I am out the door my motivation changes and I really enjoy myself. I just have to remind myself that the first step is the hardest.

USN: With less than three months to go until her first marathon, what advice do you have for Kinga?

Ryan: Be patient and progressive in your training. In the last two weeks don’t try and prove anything to yourself. I always hear of a lot of people doing 23 milers two weeks or even a week before the marathon just so they know they are still fit. Don’t do that. You have to trust your training in the last two weeks. It takes confidence and self-belief to taper. When you hear of your friends doing monster workouts in the last couple of weeks use that as added motivation that you can bottle for race day, knowing that you will get a chance to test your training on race day.

USN: What should a first-time marathoner like Kinga expect on race day?

Ryan: Obviously, you should expect to be nervous. I always remember the words of the great Alberto Salazar who won both the Boston and NYC marathon among other accolades when he said, “We are all wusses on the starting line.” It’s really true, we are all nervous and second guessing our fitness no matter how prepared we are. The great unknown of 26.2 miles lies in front of us all. Realize that it’s ok to be nervous about that. You are in good company. I make it a point to embrace the nerves as part of the special experience that is running a marathon. The nerves are part of the experience and they can be seen as a positive if you choose to see them that way.

USN: What do you like to eat before a big race?

Ryan: I like to eat a shake consisting of 1 scoop of Muscle Milk Light Cake Batter, and six scoops of Muscle Milk Cytocarb II. It sits great on my stomach, is easy to digest and yet is slow burning energy to last me through the entire 26.2 miles. I practice having this meal before each of my long runs in practice so that when I have it on race day not only is my body used to it but it also functions in the same way that a bell releases the horses on the race track. Shake=RACE TIME!!!

USN: What do you think about when you are running?

Ryan: Lots of different things. In the first 20 miles almost all my thoughts are geared toward relaxing. Relaxing my mind, relaxing my spirit and relaxing my emotions. I even like to take in the scenery and the energy of the crowd to help savor the experience. Then with 10k to go it’s race time and that’s when I pull on all those really motivating thoughts that I have used to get through my hard training. I like to think about those that I love, God, and why I am running, including raising money for my charity (thehallstepsfoundation.org). To be honest though, sometimes I am not really thinking about much of anything. I am just in the moment, driving as hard as I can, putting one foot in front of the other as fast as I can. Running can be as beautifully simple or complex as you want.

USN: What times of the day do you prefer to run?

Ryan: My energy is always best in the morning. I like to train around 8:30-9:30 a.m. depending on how hot or cold it is. The bonus of being a professional runner is that we get to train at the time the makes the most sense for our body and environment rather than being dictated to by work.

USN: You finished sub-2:05:00 at the 2011 Boston Marathon to become the American record holder in the world’s greatest marathon. After having to miss last year’s race with an injury, do you plan to return for the 2014 Boston Marathon?

Ryan: I sure would like to. I haven’t decided yet, but with all that happened last year, that race is going to be extra special next year so I’d love to take part.

USN: After sustaining an injury, what helps get you back on track with your training regimen?

Ryan: Restoring hope. Whatever I need to do to do that. Sometimes it comes in the way of conversations of encouragement from friends, sometimes it comes through sitting down with a calendar and plotting out the next race and the training I will do that will get me ready in for that race. Always moving forward is the key. I try and learn from my mistakes and do whatever I need to do to start actively moving forward, even if I am kept from running or even cross training for a period of time.