WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — American Olympic runner Ryan Hall truly believes in his new coach.
Hall left his previous coach, Terrence Mahon, after the coach questioned Hall’s commitment to run in 2010, when Hall was diagnosed with an under-active thyroid.
“Once I knew he kind of lost faith in me a little bit, that was a real shifting point,” Hall told the New York Times. “My coach has to believe in me. That’s the most important thing, probably.”
After completing a standard drug test for a half-marathon this past year Hall listed his new coach on the form: God.
When asked by a testing official to list a real person, Hall responded, “He is a real person.” Today, he maintains that he doesn’t have a coach other than God and the inspiration of the words in the Bible.
Hall’s “faith-based” training methods include taking a day off every week as a “Sabbath” from running, improvising training sessions to be more flexible, rubbing anointing oil on his legs at night, and even spacing out his most challenging workouts three days apart, a number with great significance in Biblical literature. Hall told The New York Times he simply had to realign himself with what was most important.
“I was sick of saying I’m a Christian but not having desperation for God in my life,” Hall told USA Today. “I wanted to need God. I wanted to make my faith more active in my life.”
Though convinced this program is to his benefit, there have been times when he says he has gone astray. He has, for example, fasted at times when he should have been trying to put on weight. At other times he has attempted certain training activities that may have done more harm than good, but he attributes these mistakes to his misunderstanding of what God would have him do.
But it seems that Hall is truly keeping the faith. According to USA Today, last year Hall became the fastest U.S. runner with a time of 2:04:58 at the Boston Marathon. Hall also holds the record for the fastest half-marathon and the fastest marathon ever recorded by an American.
Hall and his wife are members of the Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., and founders of The Hall Steps Foundation, a non-profit organization with the purpose of fighting global poverty.
“The Bible is not going to tell you how to be a good runner, just like it’s not going to tell you how to build a computer,” wife Sarah Hall told the Christian Post. “I don’t think Ryan is looking at the Bible for a formula, necessarily. There are certain things that God highlights for him that he applies to his training.”
Although both she and her husband are competitors, Sara said one thing they have learned is to root their identities in who God says they are instead of in how they perform as athletes.
“We’re essentially in a career that’s all about performance,” she told the congregation, according to the Christian Post. “We’re learning that … success is defined as being faithful with what you’ve been given, not necessarily how you perform.”
Hall, who was expected to medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics but finished in a disappointing 10th place in the marathon, will run for the U.S. again on Aug. 12 in London.
— Ben Fearnow