Recently I interviewed Ryan Hall, who will represent the United States in the men's Olympic marathon next month, for an article entitled "How Records Are Broken" that I wrote for Running Times. I was only able to include one of Hall's quotes in that article. Here's the entire thing.
Major national and world running records continue to be broken regularly. Why? Is it one major factor (e.g. increased worldwide competition) or a lot of little factors (training, technology, nutrition, altitude, etc.)?
Yeah, it is impossible to identify just one factor. I think one reason why records continue to be broken is because our actions always follow our beliefs. More and more people are believing that it is possible for them to set world records so some are bound to succeed.
You've broken some records yourself. Putting aside your natural modesty, what factors have allowed you to eclipse the marks of Mark Curp and Bob Kempainen? Are these personal factors in any way connected to the general factors you identified in answering the previous question?
Certainly. I have always believed that God gave me the ability to run with the best runners in the world. So naturally, my actions reflect that belief when I race against them, which is why I went out at world record pace with a pack of Africans in my last marathon in London. The mind is perhaps the most powerful tool we have as runners.
What is the key to getting faster for you? Is it a matter of finding small new ways to tweak your training to make it more effective? Simply raising the bar mentally and training/racing harder? Something else?
I hope that as I get older I will continue to develop my strength. I truly believe that the peak for marathon runners is in the late twenties to early thirties so I am hoping that my body continues to adapt to the training I am doing and continues to grow stronger. I believe I do have room to increase my training load when my body is ready for it. We are already trying some new things that I haven't been able to do before in my training.
John Walker has said that if the mile world record had been 3:47 instead of 3:51 back in the '70s, he would have run 3:46 instead of 3:49. Can you relate to that sentiment? In other words, do you find that your own limits are defined in part by the height of the standards you choose to measure yourself by?
Certainly. Which is why it is very difficult to compare times that were run decades apart. It is going to be interesting to see what is possible for the human body. Just today someone asked me if I thought the sub-two-hour marathon was possible. I didn't hesitate to respond, "certainly." For a long time no one thought a sub-four-minute mile was possible. Now a four-minute-mile is pedestrian among the elite athletes. I have no idea what the human limits are for my event or any other.
Do you think you will attempt to break the world or American marathon record some day? If so, what would be your general strategy to pursue that goal? What, for you, would be the key to success? (If you have no such plan or aren't sure, could you answer the question anyway as a hypothetical?)
I would love to make a run at the American record in the marathon. I made a good run at it in London in tough conditions and at a torrid pace. I have so much respect for Khalid (Khannouchi, the current record holder). To even make a run at his record is a huge honor for me. I think next time I will have to go out more conservatively. When he ran the then-world record and now-American record, he ran pretty much dead even, which is certainly the best way to run a marathon. It is going to take great preparation, great conditions, and perfectly executed race strategy and pacing. I believe it is possible. While it would be quite an honor to break the record I know that records will only stand for so long. So while it would be great to break Khalid's record I would rather medal and make a run at winning a couple major marathons. Records will be lost, titles last forever.
Runners like me who aren't nearly good enough to break world or national records are nevertheless very keen on breaking their own personal records. What can runners like me learn from the way world-class runners chase world and national records and apply to our own pursuit of personal records?
The great thing about running is that anyone can get excited about improving. It is easy to measure and you pretty much reap in the race what you sowed in training. Running personal records is something to be proud of and to celebrate. My Dad used to take me out for ice cream whenever I ran a PR in high school. He said it was important to celebrate every PR along the way. I couldn't agree more.