By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
NEW YORK (03-Nov) — It was the fall of 2012 when things came to a screeching halt for Sara Hall.
Running in Kona, Hawaii, Hall tripped on a pipe, fell hard and hit her knee on a sharp lava rock. The immediate result was a broken kneecap and torn tendon. The long term result? A renewed love for the sport, and for the marathon.
What seemed to be a devastating blow at the time turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the 33-year-old Californian. It’s partially responsible for why Hall is here ready to make her TCS New York City Marathon debut on Sunday.
“Ever since then, I’ve just been continuing to pursue different road races and distances and it’s been so much fun,” an energized Hall told Race Results Weekly here yesterday.
Because of the timing of her injury and the long recovery process, Hall rushed back and tried to salvage a 2013 track season; it ultimately backfired. Though she ran at the USA Championships, Hall couldn’t advance to the finals of the steeplechase.
In a nutshell, the 2013 track season was the straw that broke the camel’s back. With no IAAF World Championships or Olympics in 2014, Hall came to the conclusion that it was time to step up in distance. After hitting the reset button and taking some time to recover, the marathon beckoned. Her husband, Ryan, had reached immense success over 26.2 miles, including a pair of Olympic teams and a 2:04:58 personal best. Now it was Sara’s turn.
“It was kind of the impetus, having a very bad track season because of [the injury] and wanting to try a marathon anyways, it kind of put me into the [mindset] that I wanted to do something different next year and did all these road races and had a blast,” Hall began.
“I started doing the training for it and fell in love with it, I just felt really refreshed doing it. I’ve always loved the roads,” said Hall. The roads and marathon training reminded her of cross country, in particular cross country at Stanford University, when she first fell in love with the sport.
Hall won four of the five half-marathons she entered in 2014, and finished 11th at the national championships in Houston. It was the first sign that something good may be on the horizon.
Hall’s first marathon was a dud, a 2:48:02 showing on a hot day in Los Angeles in 2015. Bouncing back strong, Hall came in tenth at the Bank of Chicago Marathon in October of that year. Clocking2:31:14, she proved that the distance was in her wheelhouse.
Yet in the extreme heat of Los Angeles last February, Hall dropped out of the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon after 17 miles. She’d once again rebound with a strong showing two months later at the Virgin Money London Marathon, setting a personal best 2:30:06.
Now, here in Manhattan, Hall is ready to break the 2:30 barrier and compete among the world’s best. In her previous two successful marathons (Chicago and London), Hall ran all alone for a vast majority of the race. Here, with eleven sub-2:30 women in the field, Hall figures she should be in the mix for a majority of the race.
“Just competing well, I feel like that’s kind of been lacking from my marathons thus far. I had two very hot ones and they were what they were. And I had London and Chicago where I ran so much on my own where it was kind of more like a time trial. I love to compete, that’s why I’m still doing this. I just want to get out there and see what I’m made of when I compete with other people,” she said. “I do my best when I’m pushed by others and can really get the most out of myself. I’m really looking forward to the great American field, great international field.”
For this buildup, Hall has done a tad less than she did in preparing for London. Now coached by Steve Magness, Hall wanted to make sure she toed the line with enough juice in the tank. “I think we walked that line very well.”
Husband Ryan gave Sara some noteworthy advice, too: not to get discouraged by her splits. From his experience here, Ryan learned that the effort may feel harder than what the watch reads. “‘No matter where you’re at, stay in it and stay positive, keep fighting,'” Sara repeated.
Looking back, Sara Hall is glad that she discovered the marathon late in her career, after 30. “I thought I was a miler for sure at one point, but now I’m loving the marathon. I’m so thankful I’ve got to experience so much throughout my career.” She rattled off highlights, like winning the Fifth Avenue Mile in 2006. Now she hopes to add a big TCS New York City Marathon to her memory bank.
“I’m definitely having the most fun now of any period of my professional career. That’s why I’m still surprised — I did not think I’d be doing it this long. I thought maybe a year or two to experience it, but here I am eleven years later, a mom of four and still loving it. I’m really excited to continue to pursue the marathon and see how far I can take that,” she said.