Ryan Hall, 30, who will compete in the second Olympic marathon of his career this August, plays by his own rules. The free-spirited, sometimes wild-haired running rebel left the Mammoth Track Club, an elite training group in Mammoth Lakes, California, in 2010 to train on his own terms. The move paid off, as the half marathon American record-holder ran the fastest marathon ever by an American at the 2011 Boston Marathon (2:04:58).
He and wife Sara Hall, also a professional runner, established the Hall Steps Foundation in 2009 to fight poverty worldwide. With support from Crowdrise contributors, grants, donations and charity running teams, the organization has dedicated funds to build a hospital in Kenya's Rift Valley, drill water wells and operate a health clinic in Mozambique.
The devout, do-gooder couple live in California with their dogs. Ryan proclaims his Christian faith openly, and penned an autobiography, Running With Joy, about his unique faith-based running and training philosophy. Here's more about Hall's Olympic marathon preparations:
How are you preparing mentally for the Olympic marathon?
I am preparing mentally by doing 23- to 26-mile runs. I find that the best way to prepare mentally is to practice what I want to be thinking while I'm training. When I hit those long, boring miles, I put myself—in my mind's eye—in the London Marathon, and think about what I want to be thinking about in London.
What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?
Perhaps because I say God is my coach, people think I never get my training wrong. I know that even though my training is based around asking God what I should do in my training, I still bring some of myself into the equation and get things wrong sometimes. With that said, I'd prefer to get things wrong occasionally as I try to follow God in my pursuit of developing the talent God has given me.
What did you learn from the Beijing Olympic marathon that you'll use to improve in London?
In Beijing, I learned to go into every race with an open mind. Everyone was hyping up how slow the winning time would be in Beijing because of the heat and humidity. No one thought a 2:06 was possible. I won't go into London with a pre-conceived notion of how fast or slow the winning time will be in London.
What's the most valuable lesson you've learned about the marathon?
It's always 26.2 miles. No matter what kind of shape I'm in or who I'm racing, or even if I'm running in the Olympic marathon, it's still the same challenge every time: run 26.2 miles as fast as I can. Sometimes it's easy to make running a marathon more complicated than it actually is.marathon.