Wednesday, July 18, 2012

When Your Coach is Ryan Hall

It's not often a major newspaper devotes heavy coverage to the running world but with the Olympics fast approaching the appetite for stories about US athletes is obviously increasing. This past weekend the New York Times ran a wonderful profile of Ryan Hall by Jeré Longman titled, A Runner's Belief: God is His Coach. As always, I encourage to read the whole piece--it's surprisingly in-depth--but I thought I would offer some of my reactions.

Credit: runlearnrepeat
Regardless of whether you're a spiritual person, a religious devotee, or a militant atheist, it's hard not to appreciate that Hall's decision to forgo a "traditional" coach took guts. This was certainly not a case of a cocky runner saying, I'm too cool for school. Hall has always come across to me as a very humble person (so has Meb Keflezighi for that matter, coincidence that these are our two best marathoners?).

There's always a danger when we rely too much on someone else for guidance that we'll become passive and accepting. I think part of what Hall realized was that he needed to take more ownership over the direction of his training. His former coach makes the point in the article that:
“It’s not easy to say, ‘I screwed up,’ ” Mahon said. “It’s easier when someone else says, ‘This is why, and we can change it.’ ”
That's definitely true but part of Hall's new program is about being very in touch with his own running. At the end of the day whether Hall is talking to God or himself, what he's trying to do is to listen to his body and to carefully evaluate his training strategies. That level of self-awareness is something we should all seek, whether we have a coach or not.

There's one last line in the piece that I really love:
His spiritual growth, [Hall] said, has freed him from caution and a dependence on results for his happiness.
I think it's really important not to be too results focused. We need to be able to put ourselves out there, give it our all, and just feel good about that.

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