On Running: In The London Marathon
In The London Marathon
Ryan Hall is a man of faith. When he was just 14 years old, he looked out over Big Bear Lake near his home in California, and a vision led him to run the trails around the water. Ever since, he's known that running is what he was born to do.
As he ran the final mile of the U.S. trials marathon last November, the exhilaration on his face was clear. He gazed up and pointed toward the sky, giving thanks just before crossing the finish line in victory.
Earlier in the marathon, Hall had run comfortably with the leaders. Then, he surged at about the 17-mile mark and never looked back. He covered the second half of the race in a remarkable 1:02:45 to finish in a U.S. marathon trials record, 2:09.02.
It was only later that Hall's elation turned to sadness when he learned that his friend, Ryan Shay, had collapsed just past the five-mile mark of the same race. Shay was rushed to the hospital but attempts to save him failed, and Hall was left to wonder how his friend, a 9-time collegiate all-American, could die of heart failure while running.
Both Ryan Hall and Ryan Shay were standouts in high school and college. Both were Olympic hopefuls in 2004, but both failed to make the team. Each one of them invested years of dedicated training as they prepared for the 2008 Olympic trials marathon.
They trained together at times, and even took an easy run in Central Park just two days before the trials.
On race day, they stood beside each other at the starting line. The early miles passed at an easy pace and it appeared that both runners might be on their way to realizing a dream. And yet, by the time Ryan Hall pointed towards the heavens in the final meters of that marathon, he was also pointing toward the soul of Ryan Shay.
Some would think that such a loss would weaken a person's faith. If you feel that way, you might not understand what faith really means, but Ryan Hall does. He'll tell you that having faith doesn't mean that nothing bad will happen to you; it means that you'll have the strength to persevere when it does.
It was that strength that allowed Hall to stay focused after the trials and come back to run 2:06:17 at the London Marathon in April 2008. It was that strength that allowed him to recover from London, and move on to prepare himself physically, mentally and emotionally for the Olympic marathon this week.
Some might say faith means that you believe in a higher power. Some might say it simply means that you believe in yourself. However you define it, no one can accomplish anything great unless they have faith, and Ryan Hall has it.
As we watch him in Beijing, we should appreciate the path that led him to the starting line. We should understand how he's persevered. We should admire his will. And, while Ryan Hall shows us all how important it is to have faith, let the memory of Ryan Shay remind us how important it is to keep it.
Dave Griffin writes a bi-weekly running column and offers coaching to high school and adult runners of all levels. Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org