In 2007, Ryan Hall reached Tavern on the Green in Central Park—the site of the New York City Marathon finish line—sailing on an emotional high. Crowds lined the street and shouted his name. He pumped his fists and pointed skyward to the heavens. The best runners in the country trailed too far behind him to be seen.
He was leading the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, which he would win by more than two minutes. He earned a trip to Beijing, where many thought he had a legitimate shot to become the first U.S.-born man to win marathon gold since Frank Shorter did it at the Munich games in 1972.
But in Beijing, Hall finished a disappointing 10th. After running his way onto a second Olympic team in 2012, he was unable to finish the race in London. During his career, Hall has placed among the top three runners in the Boston and New York City marathons, and posted many impressive times, including at the 2011 Boston Marathon, where he finished in 2:04:58 (that's an average of four minutes and 46 seconds per mile).
But the competitive Hall says he's fallen short of what he wants to accomplish. "I feel like God has given me a gift where I can run with the best guys in the world, but I don't feel like I've totally gotten there yet," Hall says. "It's an adventure getting there, and the road is filled with failures, disappointments and hard times."
Like the event itself, the road to redemption in marathoning is long. While many athletes receive several shots at victory—football games happen every week, Major League baseball players play more than a hundred and sixty games per season—a marathoner has one or maybe two chances to win a race during a year. It takes months of grueling work to prepare. Runners like Hall typically log more than 140 miles a week in training, often running twice per day.
"If you're going to be a big dreamer, as I am, then you have to have a very resilient spirit to you," Hall says. "Because you're going to get knocked down off of your horse a whole bunch of times. And you've got to get back up."
This November, Hall will return to the New York City Marathon. He'll arrive there after months of training at an elevation of 7,000 feet in Flagstaff, Ariz., where he allowed STACK to sit in on an interval workout he performed at Buffalo Park. And he'll again toe the starting line on Staten Island against some of the best runners in the world. If things go his way, maybe this time he'll be in the lead when the Tavern on the Green comes into view.
"I think I can run really, really fast," Hall says. "That's what's keeping me in the sport. I believe there's a lot more [in me], and I want to see that come out."
Ryan Hall's Mile Repeats
The workout is tough but simple: Run a mile at a challenging pace—about 80 percent of your max heart rate if you're wearing a monitor—follow it with one minute rest, then repeat. "The goal is to progress throughout the workout in both intensity and speed," Hall says. The later intervals should be faster than the earlier ones, so pace yourself appropriately.
Hall ran 10 miles at around a 5-minute-per-mile pace. Adjust your distance, pace and number of intervals based on your goals and the sport you play. Learn more by watching video of Hall performing Mile Repeats.
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