Ryan Hall And His Coach Terrence Mahon Talk About This Year's London Marathon By David Monti (c) 2008 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved January 17, 2008
gracefully up and down the hills of Central Park at last November's USA
Olympic Team Trials - Men's Marathon, Ryan Hall's run to victory looked
effortless. Although his 2:09:02 clocking was a Trials record, he
surely would have run faster had he not spent most of the final mile
celebrating. Nonetheless, he still won by more than two minutes,
breezing through the final half of the race in 62:45, the fastest
half-marathon ever run in Central Park.
But the Trials was only
the first of three major marathons Hall will run over a period of less
than ten months. Instead of sitting out the spring marathon season to
rest his legs for the Olympic Marathon in Beijing on August 24, Hall
has instead decided to contest the Flora London Marathon. In the April
13 race, the most competitive spring marathon in the world, Hall will
be up against marathoning heavyweights like Martin Lel, Abderrahim
Goumri, Felix Limo, Jaouad Gharib, and Stefano Baldini. He finished
seventh there last year in 2:08:24, a USA debut record.
asked in an extensive interview conducted by e-mail if he was concerned
about packing three marathons into a relatively short period of time,
Hall quipped: "Practice makes perfect."
COACH AND ATHLETE ON THE SAME PAGE
most of the year with his wife, Sara, in a mobile home at their high
altitude training base in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., both of the Halls are
coached by Terrence Mahon of Team USA California. The 37 year-old
Mahon, who has a 2:13:02 marathon to his credit, works very closely
with his athletes, including Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor. But
with Hall, he shares a rare closeness, a meeting of the minds.
I knew that he made the team I was on to the next step and that was
figuring out what he needed in his athletic arsenal to be his best for
the Olympics in Beijing," Mahon said via e-mail. "Once I thought about
the races I knew that it should be either London or a half-marathon on
a very fast course (maybe something like Berlin). Once I had my ideas
I then talked with Ryan about what he thought. More often than not, we
are on the same page and he agreed that it was down between those two
choices for his major Spring race."
One of Mahon's discoveries
about his 25 year-old charge was that Hall needs a strong near-term
racing focus in order to put in his best training. "We both came to
realize that if he has too much time between big events then he gets
lost," said Mahon. "We tried to use the summer as a low key arena
where he could jump in some races and just see how things go. However,
we learned that this doesn't really fit his style of running. Ryan is
either doing something 100% or he is not doing it at all."
said that a shorter road or track race would not provide Hall with the
kind of motivation that London delivers in spades. "It had to be
something that would give him the impetus to want to put his heart and
soul into the training," Mahon reasoned.
They thought about
Boston, but decided it was best saved for a different year. The
relatively flat terrain in London would mean less wear and tear on his
legs and a shorter recovery.
"I would love to run Boston one
day," said Hall. "Both last year and this year London was the perfect
fit in terms of the long term goal of first making the Olympic team and
then being in the mix for a medal. My aspirations of running London
are getting stronger and stronger with every passing year. There is a
lot of rich history behind Boston and for an American to run well there
would be something very special that I hope to one day accomplish
before I am all done."
TRAINING WILL BE TWEAKED FOR LONDON
London, where pacemakers will dictate a fast pace, Hall will be running
a completely different race than at the Trials. Mahon will be
adjusting his training accordingly.
"Ryan's training will not be
the same for London as it was for the Trials," Mahon explained. "The
courses are different, the racing style is different, and the field is
full of people that he does not have much experience with. His
training for London will address all of these factors. In a race like
London we have a fairly good idea what will take place over the first
half of the course, but the big surprises will come over the latter
stages in this race."
While Hall wasn't ready to say that his
participation in the race had any of the top entrants worried, he did
feel that he had earned their respect. "I would think they certainly
won't be surprised to see my face up there this year, as they probably
were last year," he said. "It is always fun to surprise some guys. I
don't think I will be able to sneak up on anybody this year but I do
think I have the benefit of no one gunning for me. I don't think those
guys will be thinking about how to beat me this year in London."
London last year, Hall was actually leading in the latter stages of the
race, when his second group merged with the first. That was a valuable
experience for him. "I learned a lot from London last year. I learned
that I need to be very aware of how I am spending my energy and be very
fluid when I move. I think I moved too hard too soon last year. I do
think I did some things right, like getting a taste of the lead, but I
need to do something with the lead next time."
Mahon, who is
rarely away from his laptop computer, has been studying Martin Lel's
racing style. While thoroughly impressed with his ability to sprint at
the finish --the tactic he used to win both London and New York last
year-- Mahon sees at least a few weaknesses. "Lel's finish is proving
to be phenomenal, but we can see some weak points in his overall game,"
Mahon said. "If he is the guy to beat then we need to practice in
training how to exploit such weaknesses."
RECOVERY WILL BE KEY FOR BEIJING PREPARATIONS
said that Hall recovers more quickly than most athletes he's seen, a
distinct advantage for his 2008 campaign. "I am always trying to be
aware of how athletes come off of races and how much it took out of
them mentally, emotionally, physically," Mahon explained. "With Ryan
we have seen him in three major races where he felt like he came back
even stronger than before he ran the race. His soreness from the two
marathons have been pretty minimal and he has come back from the Trials
even quicker than from London. I look at what his first workouts back
have been after both events and can see that it was even easier the
second time around."
Hall's marathon racing schedule will be the
same as other top marathoners who will figure prominently in Beijing.
He will be running the exact same schedule as Paula Radcliffe, Lel,
Ramaala, and Baldini, for instance. The difference, critics say, is
that Hall is much younger and less experienced with the distance than
these veterans, and that London will take more out of him. Mahon
"Ryan is young, takes care of his body, and is a very
efficient runner," Mahon said. "All of these are signs that he will
recover well from a race if the training has gone well leading up to
the event. We have no reason to believe that anything will be
different after London."
EXCITED, BUT HUMBLE AND LOOKING AHEAD
a devout Christian who spent his post-Trials vacation in Israel to
follow the footsteps of Jesus, is both excited by the prospect of
another big performance in London, but knows that the key to training
well is to forget about the swagger. "I am very excited to keep
learning about the marathon and how to prepare for it," he said with
the tone of a schoolboy. "While I am gaining confidence, I am also
staying humble knowing that the marathon is not something to be taken
lightly, in preparation or in the actual race. Having two good
experiences is a tremendous blessing in that I look forward to getting
back out there and doing an even better job next time out. It is good
to know from my previous experience in London that I am capable of
running with the worlds best."
Mahon, who refined his coaching
techniques working with Kastor, spoke with confidence of his plans for
Hall. He fully appreciates that Hall is a legitimate medal favorite in
Beijing and that he would do nothing to put that goal at risk.
wouldn't be stepping on the line in London if he thought that this
would jeopardize his chances for his best run at the Olympics," Mahon
concluded. "The Olympics have been his dream and my job is to get him
there as prepared as possible. We both feel confident that this is the
next stage in the level of development for his professional running