American marathoner Ryan Hall announced Wednesday that he would not be contesting this year’s Chicago Marathon. After hearing the news, it begged the question, what does the future hold for Ryan Hall?
My first thought after digesting the news was wondering if he could somehow have a rapid improvement in his training that would get him fit enough to run the New York City Marathon on November 7. For a runner as good as Hall, a few days off can cure many ills and could have given him the break necessarily to get things back on track to peak a month later than scheduled. These hopes were soon dashed as Hall announced on his blog that he would be taking a prolonged break from running and would not be racing until 2011.
After producing an American record half marathon in January 2007, the Big Bear, Calif. native produced as spectacular of a first three races as a marathoner can have. He ran the fastest American debut at the 2007 London Marathon in 2:08:24, then won the U.S. Olympic Trials on the rolling terrain of the Central Park course in 2:09:02. Hall then proceeded to threaten the American record the next year in London, coming in 5th in 2:06:17, the fastest time ever run by an American-born athlete.
With such excellent first few efforts at the 26.2 mile distance, fans expected big things to come from Hall. He has done fairly well since then, including a podium finish at the 2009 Boston Marathon and two fourth places at 2009 NYC and 2010 Boston, but has not lived up to the expectations of many.
Hall, however, is not to blame for all the high expectations placed upon him. Each time he races in the United States, the media hypes him as a candidate to be the first American since xxxx to win the xxxx domestic marathon. When he is facing a top-notch international field at each of these races, putting such pressure on Hall is simply unfair. However, many of the critiques of Hall’s results have resulted from his own high expectations. After coming in fourth New York in 2009, Hall was very critical of his race tactics despite losing to two Olympic silver medalists, Meb Keflezighi and Jaouad Gharib, and a four-time Boston champ in Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot.
Some of Hall’s racing strategies have also been called into question. Many, albeit message board pundits, have been critical of Hall’s incessant need to check his watch during races, a critique that I must agree with. The purpose of racing is to feed off the competition. It’s understandable for him to want to know his splits in order to stay on pace, but Hall seems to be too obsessed with time, causing him to let the front pack go on a number of occasions. The decision has turned out to be unwise each time since he hasn’t been able to reel in the top men at the end of races.
In addition to an alteration of strategy, many feel Hall has not nearly maxed out his potential on the track and would also like to see him give it another shot. Shortly after Chris Solinsky became the first American under 27 minutes in the 10k, a friend pointed out that Hall would have had an excellent shot at claiming that title had he not entered the realm of the marathon at such a young age. Running a summer track campaign in 2011 would surely give him some sharpness necessary to perform well at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials and give him an excellent shot at making his second Olympic team.
Despite some of these criticisms, the future of Ryan Hall still looks bright. An extended break from running will hopefully allow Hall to recharge the batteries and give a spring marathon a shot. It would be great for him to try to win Boston again or go to London and give a time-trial course another go. Either way, Hall should take close study of his marathon performances and try to duplicate his right moves, learn from his mistakes, and continue to grow as one of the world’s best marathoners.