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Encore Effort: Exclusive Interview With Ryan Hall

Ryan Hall talks about his preparation heading into this Sunday's Olympic Marathon.

Ryan Hall has been one of America’s top long-distance road racers since he burst on the scene with his scintillating 59:43 half-marathon American record in 2007 in Houston. He ran a 2:08:24 in his debut marathon in London later that spring, becoming the fastest first-timer in U.S. history. He returned to London the following year and sliced two minutes off that effort with a 2:06:17 clocking. Hall finished a respectable 10th in the marathon at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, but his best effort to date is his fourth-place, 2:04:58 finish in the 2011 Boston Marathon. While that mark isn’t recognized as a record (because of the point-to-point layout and significant net drop of the course), no American has ever run faster.

In the past two years, the 29-year-old Stanford graduate parted ways with his coach, moved out of his longtime home of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., switched high-altitude training locales, forsworn food with gluten and significantly altered key approaches to his workouts and recovery. How different is your preparation for London given your previous experience in Beijing? What, if anything, will you do differently?

Ryan Hall: My preparations have gone well with some ups and downs along the way but it has been a good ride. I did train differently for this race than Beijing. Training for Beijing I was most concerned about the heat, whereas for London the heat will most likely not be a huge factor. I have done more work at marathon specific pace for a longer buildup compared to my typical three-month preparation. Then, in the last six weeks prior to the Games I have shifted my focus toward more speed training. In terms of the race, I think I ran smart in Beijing and to the best of my abilities for what cards I had on the day. My plan for London is to maximize whatever potential I have for the day by pushing myself along and then using things along the way to give me some extra energy, like the crowd and the fact that I am running in the Olympic Games.

In preparation for this marathon and others, what equipment or techniques have you used to enhance your performance?

Wow. That’s a good question. Enhancing performance I believe is a very individual thing. What works for me may not work for you. I think the way to sort through these many “tricks of the trade” and figuring out what to spend your time and moneys doing to enhance performance comes through experimentation, relying on experts around you, being in-tune with your body so you know how well you are responding to the stimulus and for me, praying. I feel really blessed to be surrounded by so many effective recovery tools to implement in my training.

What are the three key areas of performance that you have focused on going into the Olympics in order to perform your best on the day?

1. Run my own race.

2. Be completely me out there.

3. Stay connected to God.

Starting about three days out from the marathon, what does your nutrition plan look like?

I eat lots of small meals throughout the day. I usually eat lots of veggies as a part of my typical diet but starting two days out I drastically reduce my fiber intake. The day before I try and eat little to no fiber and I eat very bland, boring food. I try to not eat too much salt in the days leading up to the race so I am not retaining a bunch of water. My typical dinner consists of rice pasta, olive oil and a [protein] shake. The morning of the race I have a [protein] shake with added [carbohydrate powder] to top off my carb intake.

How have you focused or modified your training in order to prepare for the London Olympic marathon course? Are there training methods or types of training session might you could share/recommend with recreational competitors?

I haven’t actually changed my training too much. What I do in all my preparations is try and train on courses that simulate the course I am going to race on. So for London I have found some nice flat tempo spots to get used to using the same muscles for hours on end because that is what I will be doing in the Olympic marathon.


About The Author:

Sports nutritionist and exercise physiologist Krista Austin, Ph.D, has been a consultant to numerous U.S. Olympic runners and triathletes.