Long distance runner Ryan Hall is no stranger to notoriety: He won the marathon at the 2008 US Olympic Trials, participated in Beijing, and is currently in London representing the US again. But there’s no question Who gets the glory for Ryan’s life: Christ. In his life and profession, Ryan aims to be led by the Holy Spirit and to touch lives with the Gospel. We were thrilled to be able to bend Ryan’s ear recently for a quick chat…
Family Christian: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Ryan. Let’s start with a little personal and professional background…
Ryan Hall: Okay, I was born in Big Bear Lake, California about an hour from San Bernardino. I met my wife Sara at Stanford and we married in 2005. We’ve always had a desire to let our professional life affect the lives of others, so in 2009 we founded The Hall Steps Foundation to fight global poverty through better health. As a result we’ve been able to connect with thousands of runners who share our heart and do some cool projects including the building of a new hospital in Kenya’s Rift Valley. We’re humbled and honored by the way God has used and blessed our efforts.
Family Christian: That’s awesome. So do you and Sara have kids?
Ryan: Not yet. We hope to adopt one day, but we want to make sure we’re a bit more settled in our lifestyle before having kids.
Family Christian: Share with us a bit about your relationship with Christ. What has He been showing you lately?
Ryan: I have been a Christian ever since I can remember and continue to grow in my relationship with God. I was blessed to be raised in an awesome Christian family and was introduced to Jesus at a young age. However, I would say my faith really became my own when I was 13. I and was playing baseball, basketball and football (at the time I hated to run) and God gave me a vision to try and run around the lake in my hometown. This was the first time I can remember God communicating with me, or rather the first time I remember being able to hear Him. (I think He is always talking to us but sometimes I am not the best at listening.) Anyway, I listened and obeyed and went on a 15 mile run around the lake. When I got back from the run and collapsed on the couch God spoke to me again (not verbally but I could hear Him in my head) that He had given me a gift to run with the best guys in the world, but He had given me that gift to help others. It took me awhile to realize how to use my gift to love other people but since [then] I have learned to make the most of running with other runners, connecting with others in small moments and then to help others through our foundation.
Most recently I have started what I call "faith-based" coaching, which I began in the fall of 2010. "Faith-based" coaching basically means that instead of having a traditional coach, I apply what I hear from God through prayer, the Bible, and others to my running. In the fall of 2010 I was feeling more and more desperate for God. I was feeling that I needed to position myself where I had to hear from God. Faith became a “must” rather than something on the side. It made me desperate to hear from Him because even though I have had many great coaches that the Lord has taught me through, I realize I am not a coach. God is my Coach and what He says I try to do. I don't always get it right but I am getting better.
The way I apply this to my running is through [practical ways like] obeying the Sabbath by taking one day a week off from running and verses like, "…in the abundance of counselors there is victory." God has built a team of experts around me to help me along the way. I know I am not supposed to be on this journey alone and He has made sure that I have all the support I need to accomplish what He wants me to do.
Family Christian: Are you a book lover? What books are you reading?
Ryan: I do like to read. I am big Bill Johnson fan. One of my favorites is When Heaven Invades Earth.
Family Christian: What music do you like?
Ryan: I love Jesus Culture.
Family Christian: And how many times have you watched Chariots of Fire?
Ryan: Too many to count!
Family Christian: Tell us a little about your connection to World Vision…
Ryan: Sara and I were spokespersons for Team World Vision Chicago in 2008. We were essentially team captains for a team there that helped raise funds for a community of 90,000 people in Zambia through fundraising and racing the 2008 Chicago Marathon. We were able to go visit the community and we were never the same. We continue to support World Vision projects through our foundation and are still close with the staff of World Vision.
Family Christian: Okay, a couple of questions about running. What is your favorite Asics shoe and why?
Ryan: Gel Hyperspeed. I raced my first half marathon in them when the shoe was a prototype. In 2007 I set the American Record of 59:43 in that race. I have been racing in them ever since. I run all my marathons and half marathons in them. They are light, yet supportive and feel great.
Family Christian: Cold or warm weather - what's your preference?
Ryan: Cold, without a doubt. I'm terrible in the heat.
Family Christian: Geographically speaking, what part of the country do you most like to run?
Ryan: Honestly, my favorite place to run is in Redding, California, where I spend half of the year. We spend the other half in Flagstaff, AZ.
Family Christian: Do you personally know the other runners that you will be competing against in the Olympics?
Ryan: I know some of the guys. I know my teammates Meb and Abdi really well. They are great guys. I have been looking up to them since I was in high school, so it is a bit surreal to be on the same Olympic Team as them.
Family Christian: What are your goals for the future? What happens after the Olympics, and after running?
Ryan: Well, I hope to have my very best stuff in the Olympics (whatever that looks like) and hope to experience the joy of knowing that Jesus is the prize no matter what place I finish. After the Olympics I will continue to train and race in hopes of maximizing the talent God has given me and to broaden the impact that runners can make on fighting global poverty. After running, Sara and I hope to do some type of work in developing countries to continue to fight poverty, perhaps through rallying runners as we have done in the past.
Family Christian: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us – especially during this period of your life. Wishing you all the best in London, Ryan!
Do you think that you can run as fast as Ryan? Check out this video of people attempting to do just that.
Want to check out Ryan’s favorites for yourself? Click here for When Heaven Invades Earth by Bill Johnson and here for the music of Jesus Culture. To learn more about the Halls’ non-profit organization, click here.