Inside the Lives of Professional Runners Ryan and Sara Hall

Sara and Ryan Hall

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Ryan Hall

What is it like being married to an elite athlete? This is one of the questions Sara and I often get asked, and my typical response is that I am not sure I would still be married if I weren't married to an elite runner.

Only an elite runner would understand the oddities that come with a running lifestyle: Running twice a day, sleeping in special higher peak altitude tents that simulate the altitude at 9,000+ ft., going weeks at a time with just eating a few super foods like Muscle Milk pancakes, sweet potatoes and Alaskan salmon, the mountain of stinky shoes piled by my door at all times and being in bed by 9 p.m. every night.

I know I am getting in good shape when I am living a monastic lifestyle of eating, running, eating, sleeping, running, eating and sleeping all in the same day, and then I awake the following day only to repeat the same thing.

The life of a professional runner has its glamorous moments, like when you get to travel the world to various races, compete on TV and get treated like a star, but those days are few and far between. Most days are filled with a repetitious lifestyle that is so very ordinary and dare I say bland, unless you are like me and really, really like to eat, sleep and run.

I often tell people that I am living life in reverse. I feel like I am retired now, since I keep pretty much the same schedule as a retired person—often seeing retired folks out walking when I run in the late morning after enjoying a tranquil breakfast.

Then I do odds and ends around the house until mid-afternoon, and then I have lunch and take a long nap. I wake up, eat again then head out for a second run, oftentimes crossing paths with old timers out for a nice afternoon stroll, and then I have dinner and get in bed by 9 p.m.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Living such a lifestyle would drive any significant other mad with boredom, if they too were not traveling the same road. Surely, nobody else besides Sara would understand this lifestyle and the demands and extreme fatigue of training hard.

I have often told Sara that, when undergoing my hardest training in preparation for a marathon, I feel like a dead man walking. My energy for anything other than eating and sleeping is minimal.

But things have changed now. Less than two months ago, Sara and I brought home our four adopted Ethiopian girls, bringing more joy and fullness to our lives than I could have ever imagined.

It has been an amazing new journey that has added to, not taken away from, our ability to be able to train hard. We certainly have to be better time managers and do some trading off at times, but life is still full of training, eating and sleeping—we have just added more dance parties, cartoons, trips to school and calories to keep Dad from being a "dead man walking."

Most importantly, we have learned to be flexible and accommodating when one person is going mad from either traveling too much or staying in one spot for too long. The key to doing well in relationships is the same as in running: Be like bamboo—bend, but do not break!

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About the Author

Husband and wife Ryan and Sara Hall are two of America's premier distance runners. Both were California high school superstars and All-Americans at Stanford University (where they met). Ryan owns the best-ever American times in the half marathon and marathon, and represented the U.S. in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. He announced his retirement from running in January 2016. 

Sara was the 2012 U.S. National Cross Country Champion and a gold medalist at the Pan American Games in the steeplechase. She has represented the U.S. at three World Indoor Track and Field Championships and a World Cross Country Championship.

Husband and wife Ryan and Sara Hall are two of America's premier distance runners. Both were California high school superstars and All-Americans at Stanford University (where they met). Ryan owns the best-ever American times in the half marathon and marathon, and represented the U.S. in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. He announced his retirement from running in January 2016. 

Sara was the 2012 U.S. National Cross Country Champion and a gold medalist at the Pan American Games in the steeplechase. She has represented the U.S. at three World Indoor Track and Field Championships and a World Cross Country Championship.

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