In Defense Of Ryan Hall: The Moses Mosop Connection

Why I Think Moses Mosop Proves Ryan Hall’s Self-Coaching Wasn’t A Mistake And Why There Is Hope For The US’s Fastest Marathoner To Get Back On Top

by Steve Soprano, Employee 1.1
March 11, 2015

This Sunday at the 2015 ASICS LA Marathon / USATF Marathon Championships, Ryan Hall is back on the roads again in his first marathon since his disappointing 2:17:50 in Boston last year (Boston was his first marathon start since his DNF at the London Olympics). This race is a big indicator for Hall’s chances of making the US team for Rio 2016. We’re less than a year out from the Trials (in LA on February 13, 2016), Hall hasn’t raced a good marathon since the 2012 Trials, and this might be his last chance to put up a good performance before 2016. (He could race in the Fall, at say Chicago, but that only leaves 4-months to recover and buildup for the Trials, so that is an unlikely option.)

The US squad for Rio will be a tough team to make with Meb Keflezighi running better than ever and a slew of guys in that 2:10 to 2:12 range. It’ll do a lot for his confidence if Hall can drop a good performance this weekend in LA. If he has another 2:17-like bomb here, it’s hard to see him making the team 11-months from now.

Will Ryan be Smiling in a Year? Will Ryan be Smiling in a Year?

The Doubters And What Does This Have To Do With Moses Mosop?

So as a fan, I’m anxious and hopeful to see what happens this weekend, but I think many have already counted Hall out. (editor’s note: I bet half of us editing this article have.)

People like to criticize Ryan Hall. While all elites catch flack on the message boards now and again, Hall seems to get ragged on more than the average (see some of the posts here, here, here, here, here, here and here). He’s one of America’s all-time top distance runners, so that is going to put him more under the microscope to begin with. Couple that with the fact that he doesn’t always do things the typical way, with his faith based self-coaching for example, that makes him stand out even more.

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Many argue that if Ryan would just have got a coach, all his problems would have been solved. I think a lot of the criticism comes from the fact that he’s been self-coached (or was, since he’s now coached by Jack Daniels) so he has no one to help shoulder some of the blame.

However, it’s not that simple and as proof of this, you have to look no farther than 2:03:06* man Moses Mosop. For the last 3+ years, Mosop has been the Kenyan version of Ryan Hall. Their careers since 2011 have paralleled each other almost exactly. Why is this significant when analyzing Hall? Because Mosop (at least until the end of 2014) has been coached by one of the top marathon coaches in the world, Renato Canova.

Moses Mosop Moses Mosop after setting the 30k WR in 2011.

The Athlete Makes The Coach

Renato Canova is widely accepted to be one of the top marathon coaches in the world. He works with top Kenyan elites including half marathon WR holder Florence Kiplagat, 2-time world champion Abel Kirui and 2013 London winner Tsegaye Kebede. His coaching expertise is well known on the LRC message boards and many seek his advice and input on various training topics. Mosop was coached by Canova for most of his career and became one of the world’s best marathoners in the process as he’s run 2:03:06 (2:05:03 on a record eligible course) and won a World Marathon Major, coming in second in another.

However, despite all this talent and coaching expertise at his disposal, the last few years of Mosop’s career have almost exactly paralleled Hall’s. That is to say, Hall has had just as much relative success on his own as someone being coached by one of the best marathon coaches in the world.

This isn’t a criticism of Mosop or Canova, but a defense of Hall against those who think that his failures the last few years must mean he’s doing things completely wrong. Sometimes you train perfectly, but still under perform, or still get injured. It’s part of the sport.

It All Started At Boston 2011

Hall gets the crowd going at Boston 2011.

Mosop’s and Hall’s paths started their “parallelism” at the 2011 Boston Marathon. There, they both ran the fastest (arguably the best) marathons of their career as Mosop finished second to Geoffrey Mutai in 2:03:06 and Hall was 4th in 2:04:58. Even accounting for the significant tailwind at Boston, JK estimated at the time that those performances would be worth approximately 2:04:51 and 2:06:43, so still the best or close to best of their careers.

After Boston, they both followed that up with good performances at the 2011 Chicago Marathon as Mosop won in a then CR of 2:05:37 and Hall was 8th in 2:08:04. Following that, Hall ran well and was 2nd at the 2012 US Olympic Trials in 2:09:30 while Mosop was 3rd at Rotterdam in 2:05:03, his record-eligible PR.

For Hall and Mosop, that early 2012 time period marked the last high point in what would be a long stretch of terrible running. Both got hurt before the 2012 Olympics and Mosop was pulled from the Kenyan team while Hall struggled with a hamstring issue and dropped out 10-miles into the race. Following those injuries, 2013 was a terrible year as that started Hall’s trend of pulling out of races (he ran no marathons and one 64:10 half) and Mosop only ran one race the entire year, a disappointing (by Mosop’s standards) 2:11:19 at Chicago (8th place). Both men were supposed to race Boston 2013, but withdrew with injuries.

Hall and Mosop continued putting out similar performances in 2014 as Hall ran an abysmal 2:17:50 for 20th place in Boston and Mosop ran an even worse 2:20:37 (12th place) at the Prague Marathon.

People liked to rag on Hall for not having a coach, but a lot of great runners (Wilson Kipsang and Geoffrey Mutai for example) coach themselves, and Mosop has been pretty bad with one of the best coaches out there.

Why There Is Hope

The sub-title of this article said there was hope didn’t it? Well, at the end of 2014 Hall’s and Mosop’s careers continued to parallel each other as they both made an equal, but opposite change. Mosop left Canova and his agent (International Athletics Consultancy), while Ryan Hall hooked up with Jack Daniels as his coach. Speaking about Mosop’s training, his agent said the following:

“I have no doubt that Moses can still compete with the best our sport has to offer, only if this was his priority. With the privilege of having Renato as his long-time coach it is very unfortunate that Moses has shown disappointing lack of commitment to his training and professional conduct.”

After I read that, I said to myself, “Well, Moses Mosop is 100% done. A comeback at this point was already unlikely and now he’s not even training all-out and working with Canova, no way he gets back to being one of the top marathoners in the world.”

However, as LRC co-founder Rojo always reminds us, “talent doesn’t go away”. In Mosop’s next race after that announcement, he ran a 2:06:19 to win the Xiamen Marathon in China.

From 2:20 to 2:06! Now, that 2:20 wasn’t a full effort I’m sure, but that’s still an incredible jump. If Hall and Mosop’s paths continue to parallel each other, we should expect something pretty great from Hall on Sunday.

Ryan Hall Moses Mosop
2:04:58 at Boston 2011 (4th) + 2:03:06 at Boston 2011 (2nd) +
2:08:04 at Chicago 2011 (5th) + 2:05:37 at Chicago 2011 (FTW) +
2:09:30 at 2012 Olympic Trials (2nd) + 2:05:03 at Rotterdam 2012 (3rd) +
Injured, DNF in London 2012 marathon Injured, pulled off Kenyan Olympic team
Injured in 2013, withdraws from several races including Boston, no marathon starts Injured in 2013, withdraws from several races including Boston, poor 2:11:19 in Chicago (8th place)
Terrible “comeback” race at Boston 2014 (2:17:50 – 20th) Terrible “comeback” race at Prague 2014 (2:20:37 – 12th)
Fall 2014: Gains Jack Daniels as his coach ? Fall 2014: Leaves Renato Canova as his coach ?
2015: LA Marathon … ??? 2015: 2:06:19 at Xiamen (FTW) +

In Summation

For the record, I don’t actually think there is some cosmic connection between Mosop and Hall (although you have to admit that chart is pretty cool). If you asked me the odds, I’d have to say it’s more likely Hall has a poor race on Sunday. He hasn’t ran a good marathon in 3+ years, so you have to ask, “What have you done lately?” And with the hot temperatures predicted, a fast time is probably out of the picture. So I’ll take winning in a relatively good time (for the conditions) as a good day.

The point I wanted to make, is even if Hall bombs in LA, you can’t say that it’s all on him for being self-coached the last several years. If he runs well you can’t say it’s because he finally has a coach and he’s an idiot for not having one all along. People who haven’t had to deal with chronic injuries probably don’t understand how hard it can be to come back at all from them, forget about getting back to your peak level and improving from there. Mosop was a 2:03* guy and it took him 3+ years. Some guys never come back. Hopefully though, the “Moses Mosop – Ryan Hall Connection” (copyright pending) stays alive and there are some “Ryan Hall is back!!!” threads going super hot on Sunday AM.

*Author’s Note: I realize that Boston is not an eligible course for records and the 2011 times were wind-aided. However, for the purposes of this article, since both Hall and Mosop ran there together, I used those times.

**It should be noted that for a short period of time (I believe December 2012 through June 2013) Hall was coached by Canova. However, since neither Hall nor Mosop ran a marathon during that time (Mosop was injured, Hall was coming back from injury/injured and only raced two shorter races) I left it off my chart.

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