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Versatile Sara Hall Leaving Her Options Open

Her next stop is the Suja Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon.

Her next stop is the Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon.

The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials are barely eight months away, followed 4 1/2 months later by their track and field brethren. Yet Sara Hall, one of the United States’ best distance runners, isn’t certain what event (maybe plural) she’ll tackle.

Despite an inauspicious marathon debut last March, Hall will almost certainly line up for the marathon trials on Feb. 13, 2016 in Los Angeles. As for the track and field trails, here’s where things turn fascinating. Hall might run the 10,000 or maybe dip all the way down to the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

RELATED: Sizing up 2016: Who Will Make the Olympic Marathon Team?

Translated, Hall might step to the line in distances ranging from just under two miles, up to 26.2.

“I don’t feel anxious,” says Hall regarding her uncertain future. “I feel excited about having a number of options. I’ve seen people run a spring marathon then come back and run great on the track. But the steeplechase and marathon, that is kind of unique.”

This much is certain. Hall, 32, will be running in the Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon come Sunday. Despite training for years at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. (the stays lasted three months), plus living in the Gaslamp District for a spell, Hall will be racing in San Diego for the first time.

It will also mark her first stab at a Rock ‘n’ Roll series event. She is, though, familiar with the 13.1-mile course. She rode in the pace car last year when her husband, Ryan, finished 13th.

“I got to see the energy and enthusiasm out there,” says Sara, who was raised in Santa Rosa, Calif., about 45 minutes north of San Francisco. “We don’t have a lot of elite races in California. This is my home, where my passion for the sport began. It’s fun to race in California.”

Across the past year, Hall has been logging fast times and positive results across distances that showcase her versatility. Some of the highlights:

  • Second at the 2014 U.S. 10-Mile Championship (52:54)
  • Third at the U.S. 1-Mile Road Championship (4:33.8)
  • Second at the U.S. 10K Championship (33:28)
  • Fourth at the USA Half Marathon Championship in a personal best 1:10:50.

The lone wart on Hall’s face of work the past year was her marathon debut on March 15 at the LA Marathon where she finished 22nd in 2:48:02. Even then, she came back 13 days later on the other side of the world in China and placed 20th in the IAAF World Cross Country championships, covering 8K in 28:19. It was the highest finish at the event by any American man or woman.

“If you look further,” says Hall’s coach, Steve Magness, “she tends to bounce back well.”

Hall had planned to make her marathon debut last fall but those plans were changed when she suffered a ruptured appendix.

One oddity about Hall’s performance in Los Angeles is that her training indicated she’d make a fabulous debut.

“I felt I was the fittest I‘ve ever been in my life,” she says.

“Honestly,” says Magness, “in that buildup to Los Angeles, the race was the only workout that didn’t go well. Everything else, she was nailing; 15- to 16-mile tempo runs, 24-mile runs at a fast pace at altitude. She adapted to it really well.”

Hall feels she was done in by two factors in Los Angeles: 1) sweltering heat with the temperature climbing to 88 degrees; 2) steep early hills which beat up her quads on the descents.

Still, she was hardly dismayed.

“I learned a lot from it,” she says Hall, who plans to run a fall marathon. “I’m stronger (mentally) as a runner. I never have suffered that long. I’m excited to try again.”

Hall thinks the volume of mileage she compiled in marathon training made her stronger, resulting in fast times at shorter distances.

“The training I did–high volume, strength work–I really responded to it,” she says.

One of Hall’s best qualities is that she’s not shy about stepping outside her comfort zone and racing at a variety of distances.

“I’m not afraid to fail,” she says. “I think I failed enough in my life that I’m not afraid of it anymore.”

In some respects, Hall is still finding her way. The marathon, 10K or steeplechase? Where might her Olympic future lie? No one knows.

Says Magness, “With other athletes I might have some super, long-term plans. With Sara it’s more like a rough blueprint. We can go so many directions.”