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December 10, 2021

Ryan Hall - A Pro's Perspective on Winter and Holiday Training

Written by Ashley Benson

Originally written by Dena Evans
Updated by Ashley Benson 

Ryan_Victah_Oly_TrialsRyan Hall was the first American to break one hour in the half marathon, running 59:43 in January of 2007 at the Aramco Houston Half Marathon.  His first marathon later that spring represented the fastest debut of any US athlete (2:08:24), and his current personal best of 2:06:17 ranks him second to Khalid Khannouchi on the all-time American list.  After winning the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials, Ryan finished 10th in Beijing, and has placed 3rd and 4th overall in the last two Boston Marathons, running 2:08:40 in 2010, the fastest American time in the history of the event.

On December 1, John Hancock announced Ryan's inclusion into the 2011 Boston Marathon elite field.  Before he can tackle Heartbreak Hill again, however, he will need to train through the winter like the rest of us.  Ryan took a few minutes with us to share some insight about winter and holiday running.

Photo credit:  Victah Sailer

Coach:  Growing up in Big Bear (California) and now training in Mammoth, Flagstaff, and other high altitude locations in the winter, you must regularly encounter some rough running weather (cold temperatures, snow, ice, etc).  How do you tweak your training to account for these less than ideal conditions?

RH: Training during the winter months is certainly not my favorite season to train through, but the weird thing is that I always come out of the winter in the best shape of the year.  I don't know what it is about training in the snow, cold, rain, etc. that makes me feel better than I typically do,  but I know that its worth it for me to tough it out through these gray months.  The hardest thing for me to do is to be flexible in my training schedule from week to week.  For example, if I am scheduled for a big tempo run on Friday but the snow is coming down in buckets I have to have an open mind and be flexible enough to move the workout back, which in the past has been difficult for me to do.  If I am not willing to move the workout back it means I have to be flexible to do the workout indoors on a treadmill or at least wait for the afternoon sun to clear the roads.  Luckily, now my coach is in charge of the weather and my workouts so it all works out.

 

Coach: I assume that the challenges of winter training might encourage mental toughness.  What are some key things you remind yourself during the winter to help keep you focused on the training vs the challenges that might be posed by the weather, shorter daylight hours, etc?

RH: One of the aspects of running that I love the most is the challenge.  I think we all run, to some degree, because of the challenges we face in training.  I don't like to give myself excuses with the weather.  Sure, sometimes I'll wait it out to try and run in the best part of the day but there are those moments when the wind is blowing hard and snow is coming down and I am in the middle of a workout trying to run against the wind and I remind myself, "What if it is like this in Boston on race day?"
 
I know that race day can hold a variety of conditions and I must be ready for them all. So, when I see the flags whipping when I wake up on race morning I can smile because I know I have prepared for it.  I think there is also something to be said for being able to block out the cold and wind.  You teach yourself that you can push yourself hard when things aren't perfect.  Whenever things are not perfect in training, I remind myself that they probably won't be on race day either.

Coach: You come from a large family with several folks who enjoy or have enjoyed running.  Did you have any running related holiday traditions with your family growing up or nowadays with your wife, Sara? Or have you heard of any fun ones from other families you might like to try in the future?

RH: Well, this isn't necessarily running, but last year after a long run, Sara and I went out into the forest to hike up a mountain and cut down our own Christmas tree.  That was a first for the both of us.  It was fun, but I was drained for what felt like a week after that.  This year, we will probably go cut another Christmas tree, but on an off day from running.  Other than that, Sara and I have done a jingle bell run a couple years back and had a lot of fun.  There is nothing like ending a cold run at a coffee shop with a hot chocolate waiting.                                                         

Coach: I know you enjoy doing some cooking from time to time.  Any favorite holiday dishes you might recommend for our runners trying to stay on track with their training when so much good food is available?

RH: Cinnamon rolls were on my mind until I got to the end of your question.  Many of my holiday favorites like turkey, egg casseroles, and yams are actually super nutritious.  They just are usually prepared in unhealthy ways even though healthy versions are out there and are equally tasty.  I love fresh winter foods like squashes, brussel sprouts, and cranberries.  This year I am hoping to get to cook the turkey.  I have a new healthy and unique recipe that is so good.  It requires skinning the turkey before brining it for 24 hours, baking it at 350 for the first hour, then turning the temperature down to 180 for the next 23 hours.  It's the most tender and tasty turkey I have ever had.  With that said, I think moderation is the key during the holidays.  I like to enjoy an occasional homemade dessert because I do like a good sweet every now and again and I always want to honor the person who took the time to make the dessert.                                                                                                                                        

Coach:  Like you, many of our Runcoach runners are heading into the holidays while training for spring marathons or half marathons.    Some folks feel like the race is so far off it won't matter if they skip out on training for a few weeks now, and others are nervous and feel like the race is just around the corner.  How do you recommend folks maintain a good balance with months ahead to train?

RH: Good question.  I would suggest to plan your training ahead so you know what days are going to be tough to get out the door.  Use these days for off or recovery days.  As long as you have a good plan with the long term goal in mind you will be alright.  I make sure I am doing the proper workouts during the proper phases of training.  What I mean by this is that I know that even if I am not killing my workouts in December and January it is fine because they aren't my biggest workouts in preparation for a spring marathon.  If I was killing my biggest workouts in December and January, then I would be concerned.  I wait to do the meatest part of the my training in February and March.
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