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From Mile to Marathon with Sara Hall

USA 10k Championships Next On Tap for Hall

By Scott Bush

No American distance runner races a greater variety of races than Sara Hall, at least not in 2014. Only half way through 2014, Hall competed indoors over 3,000m, placed third at the USA Mile Road Championships, second at the USA 10 Mile Championships, ran a 9:42.10 steeplechase in early May and a half marathon in January. With so much variety in her racing, Hall now starts to set her sights on a marathon this fall.

Before Hall tackles a fall marathon, she's set to compete in Friday's USA 10 km Championships, where she'll look to not only win, but jump to the top of the USARC standings. Catching up with Hall, we talk about the variety of her racing, her thoughts on debuting in the marathon, how she got started in the sport and much more. 

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Scott Bush (SB): The USA 10 km Championships are this coming weekend. How's everything been in your build-up training and how confidence are you feeling heading into Atlanta?

Sara Hall (SH): All in all I am feeling great physically and excited going into the US 10k championships at Peachtree! My training continues to progress in a way I'm encouraged by and I have been enjoying the process. The only real hiccup was taking a fall after the Oakley Mini 10k two weeks ago where I cracked a rib and broke a chunk off my elbow bone. It isn't anything made worse by running from what we know right now and haven't had to take a single day off, however, running has been more uncomfortable due to my rib, so that's been kind of annoying. But the pain hasn't stopped me from having one of my best tempos and long runs ever, hopefully it is increasing my pain tolerance.

SB: You're really mixing it up this year, running in the USA 1 Mile Championships, competing in the steeple and challenging yourself over the half marathon distance. That's quite the range. What's your thinking behind such a diverse schedule of events?

SH: The schedule evolved basically as a combination of things I was excited about doing, a few things I had committed to do, and other races that naturally fit to work on specific things. Usually my spring is focused around the sole goal of making the outdoor track team, so without that this year it lended to some more creativity. It was definitely a mix, but I've found with myself that as long as I'm feeling good physically and things are clicking, I can race well at a range of distances.  

My training was catered more to a 5k-10k distance in the spring, with some more aggressive long runs as pre-marathon prep training, and so basically I was running most of the events off of strength. I was really encouraged by my steeple opener despite my lack of preparation and was hoping to run a few more, but it just didn't seem to make sense with the flow of the rest of the year and my ultimate goals. So it has left my hungry for next year's track season!

SB: You currently sit fifth in the USARC standings, only seven points out of first. Is a USARC title something you're trying to work towards this season?

SH: Yeah that's something I noticed recently, I like the concept of the USARC series and have always enjoyed competing in the events! We will see how the rest of the year plays out but it would be a fun goal! 

SB: You and Ryan rather recently decided to make Flagstaff your official base camp. Why Flagstaff and how has the transition been?

SH: It's crazy to think it's been almost four years by now that we moved to "Flag" from Mammoth! We love Flagstaff and after spending time in different altitude hubs believe it to have the best key elements for a professional runner's success. The mild winters, paired with the ability to get down in elevation to varying altitudes quickly, and the endless network of dirt roads is unparalleled. Plus, being close to our therapist John Ball has been a really important factor as well, he has played a huge role in our careers.  

The amount of runners in town, including the recently formed Team Run Flagstaff Pro, make it a supportive environment and we are looking to continue to connect up with others as much as we can. At first after leaving the Mammoth Track Club where we met for practice twice a day, we kind of enjoyed the flexibility and independence to just go it alone and cater things to ourselves, but now have come full circle and are enjoying having the company of others in the process. 

SB: You stated earlier this year that you're ready to test out your talent over the marathon distance. When does that training begin and have you decided on which one you'll race this fall?

SH: Yes I'm definitely planning to run a fall marathon and very excited about it, though I'm not ready to announce which one. I would say in some ways the training has already begun, in that I've been doing 10k training, which will naturally evolve to half marathon training and then marathon training, the same flow that Ryan has always taken to it.  

I actually just sat down with Steve Magness and Ryan in Sacramento for a planning session which got me really excited just talking about the training ahead!  It will be fun to have Ryan more involved in my training, he's pretty excited about helping out and being present at some of my workouts, and it will be a fun project of us to work on together. I have an unfair advantage being able to bounce my questions off the US' fastest marathoner in history whenever I want :)

SB: Racing as often as you do, and doing work for your foundation, what does a typical week of training look like for you?

SH: All-in-all, the general flow of my training hasn't changed too much yet this year. Typically one day is intervals, one day is a tempo, and one day is a long run in a 7-day cycle. One difference this year, and the biggest way I knew I was ready to tackle the marathon, was when I started to bring my A-game to my long runs and approach them more like workouts than extended training runs (the approach I had taken before to not take the pop out of my legs for the upcoming "more important" track session). I do almost all my training runs with Ryan (unless one of us is feeling off or especially good, we typically gravitate towards the same pace) and some with our miniature Siberian huskies Kai and Dash running around off-leash.

I train twice a day quite often and do a very individualized weight program 2-3 times a week. I fit the day-to-day running of The Hall Steps Foundation and business side of the sport usually in the afternoon between runs. Besides that, there's a healthy amount of gourmet cooking with Ryan, attending church and related activities, and low-key hanging out with friends.  

SB: Last question and lets back up a bunch of years. How did you first get into the sport? When did you realize you could be quite good at distance running?

SH: I think I realized my potential in my first race, as a 13 year old in 7th grade. I had decided to go out for cross country, and unlike most middle schoolers, had decided to train for it the summer before while also playing competitive soccer. I fell in love with running while exploring the endless trail network across the street from my house in Annadel State Park (Santa Rosa, CA) and realized my intensity for training as I got really into trying to run the same loop faster every day.  

In my first race I upset the previous league champion in a sprint finish, and from that day on was hooked on the competitive aspect of racing. I had pretty immediate and consistent success throughout those early years, but really just took it a year at a time while believing anything was possible. I am naturally very competitive, but also have a love for the purity of just running, whether intensely on the track or in the forest, which has allowed me to enjoy the process and kept me in the sport for so long.

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