The 31-year-old is excited to compete for a national title on March 15.
Fresh off a fourth-place, 1:10:50 personal best effort at the recent U.S. Half Marathon Championships in Houston, a resurgent Sara Hall will make her 26.2-mile debut at the LA Marathon on March 15. The race, which doubles as the 2015 U.S. Marathon Championship, will feature a formidable field of American athletes, including 2012 Olympian Janet Bawcom, who edged Hall by four seconds in Houston, along with Becky Wade, Alissa McKaig, Heather Lieberg and Melissa White.
“I’m really excited to run the ASICS L.A. Marathon,” Hall said in an interview on Monday morning. “I’ve been thinking about when and where to run my first marathon for a while now. I’ve fallen in love with the marathon distance just watching so many of Ryan [Hall]’s races. He makes it look like so much fun out there. So just getting to be out there in the excitement of the marathon atmosphere, I was just kind of biding my time to get to try it myself.”
A middle-distance and steeplechase specialist on the track, Hall won a national title at the 2012 U.S. Cross Country Championships, edging out American 5,000m record holder Molly Huddle. Hall had great success on the roads in 2014, with runner-up finishes at the U.S. 10-mile championships last April, the U.S. 10K Championships last July and also at the U.S. 7-Mile Championships later in the summer. She won her half-marathon debut at the Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon in October 2013, breaking the tape in 1:14:33. Last January, she ran 1:13:38 to finish 11th at the U.S. Half Marathon Championships in Houston.
“Sara is just an incredible athlete,” her coach Steve Magness told Competitor.com on Monday. “She can do anything. She’s adjusted really, really well to marathon training—the long runs, the long tempos—all that stuff has gone incredibly well. And she can still bang out a couple 29-second 200s on the track in practice.”
Hall, who was hoping to make her marathon debut last fall before suffering from a burst appendix, will join her husband, Ryan Hall, on the starting line in Los Angeles. Ryan Hall, the fastest American marathon ever at 2:04:58, recently finished a close second to Benson Cheruiyot at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon in 1:04:16. His participation in this year’s L.A. Marathon was announced last month.
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“It’s been really fun to just be on the journey and the buildup together,” Sara Hall says of having her husband participating in the same race. “Our whole careers have kind of been about doing it together and that’s what’s made it really fun. And since he’s the one who really inspired me to do the race, it’s been really meaningful to go through the process with him and learn from him as we go.”
Magness, who has coached Hall since 2012, says the marathon is a new frontier they want to explore in the early part of 2015 in order to have options when it comes time to decide what event or events they want to focus their attention on leading into the 2016 Olympic year. He says the emphasis of Hall’s workouts has shifted recently toward longer tempo runs in the range of 16 miles and long runs of 23-24 miles, but she’s still been doing the occasional fast interval session to keep her speed up, even as her peak weekly volume hovers around 110 miles.
“If you look at last year, she was top 3 or 4 at the road mile championships while training for a half marathon,” Magness says of the versatile Hall. “And I think that’s her strength. From a speed or endurance standpoint, she can pretty much handle it all. Obviously we’ve changed things a little bit for this marathon buildup but that’s kind of been her forte. So in the future, it just gives her options. I think she’ll definitely do more longer road stuff, but she can still get on the track and run a quick 1500 or a really quick 5K or steeple, and I think that’s one of the qualities that’s unique to her. And she loves racing. That’s why she does the sport.”
When Hall steps to the starting line for her marathon debut on March 15, competing for a national title will be at the top of her priority list—not chasing mile splits or a goal time—as Magness has instructed her to “just stick your nose in it and compete.” It’s a strategy that’s fine with Hall, who says racing on the road last year was the most fun she’s had as a professional, as the varying terrain and changing elements of road racing remind her of cross country, where she’s thrived throughout her career.
“The U.S. championship element is kind of the icing on the cake,” explains Hall. “I love championship style racing. It brings out the best in me as a runner so I’m excited to have that be another element of the race. I’ve never been someone that’s been really been motivated by time. Ive always done better when I’m just out there competing. That’s just more of my personality and one of the reasons we chose L.A. too. I felt like it was a race I could be competitive in and that’s how I run best.”