Ryan Hall, the American record holder in the half-marathon, is headed to Hawaii to run in the Paul Mitchell XTERRA Trail Run World Championship half-marathon at Kualoa Ranch on December 4.
While you might expect the 33-year-old, two-time Olympian to be considered the front-runner to win the upcoming trail championship, he begs to differ.
“Based on my 2:04 marathon PR you would think I would be the favorite but I have a completely different, more athletic and stronger body now,” said Hall, who ran the fastest marathon time ever by an American five years ago. “I would have a better chance at winning America Ninja Warrior than winning this race.”
Hall, who retired from professional running in January after struggling with fatigue in the final years of his illustrious running career, set out to combat the lethargy with weight training and dietary changes.
“Since retiring I've gotten super into weight training,” he explained. “It's really fun to do something so anabolic in nature and being able to see such rapid growth and improvement. Weight training is my new passion but I can't say it's done a lot for my running. I am kind of a lumbering giant these days so I am not putting out any impressive numbers anymore, but I am happy making my gains in the weight room rather than on the trails.”
His regime now includes “pouring down about 50 grams of protein every three hours, usually in the form of Alaska Salmon or Muscle Milk.”
“A year and a half ago I weighed 127 pounds. Today, I weigh 170, and while I am not as lean as I was then I will say that I never had abs before, no matter how ridiculously skinny I would get. And that wasn't from a lack of core training. Sometimes I would train my core hard for 30 minutes a day, but since bulking and getting into weights I noticed my abs starting to pop for the first time in my life. It's fun to see how big and strong a 127lb, 2:04 marathoner can get. I'd like to eventually get over 200lbs with somewhat low body fat. Not sure if that's possible, but I am having fun trying.”
Despite the muscle gain, one might still believe Hall could give reigning and three-time XTERRA Trail Run World Champion Patrick Smyth and reigning World Mountain Running Champ Joe Gray a good chase.
“In arm wrestling I'd dominate. In running, not so much,” said Hall. “I used to train with Patrick in Mammoth, so it will be fun to see him and other familiar faces again but I will just be wishing them luck on the starting line, then enjoying my own run at my own pace. It would take a massive miracle for me to be within 20 minutes of the winners.”
Instead of being “in it to win it” Hall says he’s just going to enjoy the run and later “challenge the winner to a bench press competition…that’s where I’ll have a chance.”
When Hall was a sophomore in High School in Big Bear, California he came to Hawaii for the first-time to watch his dad race in the Ironman World Championship.
“I was training in the dry and cool mountains of southern California so my first experience in heat and humidity training was in Hawaii. I felt like I suffered as much on my short 5-mile training runs as my Dad did during his Ironman,” said Hall.
This time around, Hall will be discovering Hawaii in a whole new way.
“This trip to Hawaii is going to be super special for me because I'll have the whole family in tow,” he said. “Sara and I adopted four sisters from Ethiopia a little over a year ago, and they are enjoying many new "first" experiences. They have never been to any place tropical before so this will be a whole new world for them. I am looking forward to showing them Hawaiian culture, the beautiful land, and spending some time on the beach and in the ocean. Our oldest two girls like to run so it will be fun to go on some beautiful trail runs while we are in Hawaii.”
Hall, who heard about XTERRA Trail Run Worlds through his sponsors at Muscle Milk, said he was thrilled to get invited to come run in paradise and check out Kualoa Ranch.
“I was stoked when Muscle Milk said they wanted to bring me out for the event,” he said. “I've been going down my bucket list and running races for pure enjoyment in some of the most beautiful places in the world, and it's been really fun for me to let go of the high-performance end of things and really just soak in the entire race experience without the high expectations. When I saw the pictures from previous year's XTERRA Trail Run Worlds I was instantly drawn to the event. I'm excited to see Kualoa Ranch, it looks stunning!”
Hall says he’s also happy to be back running trails, which he trained on almost exclusively while growing up in the mountains of SoCal.
“I love running trails because I love being out in the quiet of nature. Trail running goes by super-fast compared to the roads. I just love being buried out in the middle of the forest. Life just seems to make sense out there,” he said. “Plus, trails are great for easy days because they are on soft surfaces so they keep the legs from getting beat up by the pounding. They also slow you down so they let you stay in that easy running zone that you need to be in to recover from hard sessions.”
As for the prospect of starting a “new career” in running trails, Hall laughed, saying “Nah, it’s just a fun challenge. I just run for fun now so I try and choose races that are in epic locations, offer an amazing adventure, and are fun atmospheres so I think I've found the perfect match for all that at XTERRA Trail Run Worlds.”
Hall added that his “new job” as a Dad keeps him plenty busy…
“I put in quite a few driving miles these days shuttling the kids around to the various sports they are involved in. They play gymnastics, soccer, and running. It's great being a dad. The kids have
brought so much joy to our lives. We are blessed to be their parents. But, life certainly has changed from the days of watching movies in between training sessions. The only movies I watch now are on airplanes.”
Hall will watch his next movie on the airplane ride to Hawaii, and those lucky to be on Oahu over the XTERRA Weekend (Dec. 3-4) are invited to take in a free XTERRA University running clinic with Ryan Hall on Saturday, December 3, at the Waikiki Beach Walk at 10 a.m.
For more information visit www.xterrakualoa.com.