Running In The Family

With the 123rd Boston Marathon on the horizon, Sara Hall is laser-focused. The Asics-sponsored elite’s training runs and daily workouts are meticulously planned and deliberately executed. With a personal best marathon time of 2:26:20, she has great ambitions for Marathon Monday. Behind the scenes, her coach and husband, Ryan Hall, provides moral support and guidance. Ryan knows a thing or two about the sport: he is a retired long-distance runner, Olympic athlete and American record holder in the half marathon and marathon.

While both of the Halls are intently focused on Sara’s training, they simultaneously prioritize nurturing and inspiring their young daughters’ running lives.

In October 2015, Sara and Ryan adopted four sisters from Ethiopia, instantly growing their family from two to six. All of their daughters demonstrate an aptitude toward running, but it is their oldest daughter, Hana (now 18), who is truly following in her parents’ footsteps. When she and her sisters were first adopted, Hana was intrigued by running but had yet to run a lap in her life. Over the last few years, the Halls have cultivated her curiosity into success. In November 2018, she placed first in the Division 2 Arizona AIA State Cross Country Championships.

We had the opportunity to speak with Sara about her involvement in her daughter’s training—and how she balances mothering runners on the rise with her own training for the 2019 Boston Marathon.

To what extent are you involved in your daughters’ running lives?

At the moment, only my oldest daughter consistently trains. My younger three are dabbling in different sports but do like to hop into kids’ races whenever possible!

For my oldest daughter, I have never been her official coach. But as an athlete myself, it helps me know how to support her in the ways I appreciate being supported. Ryan and I are very involved in writing and administering her workouts in the off-seasons (summer and winter) and sometimes on the weekends, but we want her to be integrated with her team whenever they are training. We also help her with strength training and other ancillary aspects of running. But my favorite way of helping her is by giving her pep talks and cheering like crazy at her races. That always helps me. Letting her know how much I believe in her and helping her with race strategy is probably the most important way I support her.

Do you or Ryan ever feel tempted to step into that coaching role, or do you leave it up to those at your daughter’s school?

We prefer to have her as integrated as possible in her team, so that she gets the social components of the sport, as well as showing her other teammates [that] she’s bought into the program. Fortunately, she has a great coach, Trina Painter, and a four-time state champion team. But, naturally, we like to help where we can.

Do you ever run together as a family?

I run with Hana on the weekends and sometimes for my afternoon run, if she doesn’t have practice. We run together more in the winter and summer, when she doesn’t have practice. She is able to run a mid-7-minute pace at altitude, which is my easy run pace. It’s a little harder for her, so we don’t always finish runs together, but we at least start out together.

Ryan will help her on the bike in long runs and workouts. He also writes her strength training [workouts].

Are any of your daughters considering pursuing running at a higher level?

Hana says all the time her goal is to make the Olympics and be a professional runner. We do all we can to support her [as she reaches] toward her goals.

How do you balance your own training with being there for your daughter’s training?

It’s difficult and something I’m always fine-tuning. Fortunately, I have a good chunk of time when they are in school, so I do the majority of [my training] during that time. But parenting duties are all day long, even when they aren’t home. Being a parent is tiring, and it’s hard at times to feel like I can’t be as “dialed in” as I used to be, but I try to remind myself that even so, I still have had my best years ever, improving each year since we’ve adopted them. I can’t compare myself to my competitors and their lifestyles; I have to be confident that I can be successful even with this new normal.