Saturday, August 23, 2008

America's Mountain High Marathon Hope - Ryan Hall

The Big Bear Grizzly front page declaring support to Ryan Hall in his pursuit of Olympic competition. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (MAXINE) 2008

America's Mountain High Marathon Hope - Ryan Hall

It was right there in the headline of the local paper here in Big Bear Lake – "Run Ryan Run To Beijing". The Grizzly, a paper published for those interested in the San Bernardino mountain village of Big Bear Lake, California, and the surrounding Big Bear Valley communities, was calling attention to the fact that Ryan Hall is going to be given a proper community send-off as America’s best hope running in the iconic event of the Olympics to be held in Beijing, China which begins with the opening ceremonies August 8, 2008.

There have been other residents who have blessed this mountain area with notoriety (cartoon voice artist, Mel Blanc, the acting and television couple of Shirley Jones and Marty Ingles, famed Olympic and professional boxer Oscar De La Hoya to mention a few) located about 100 miles East of downtown Los Angeles but none were born, raised and educated here.

Ryan Hall as he enters the area on the North Shore formally known as "Moon Camp". Image Credit: CBN 700 Club Video

Ryan's story is as simple as the environment in which he was raised – a place that, for Southern California, uniquely boasts four seasons.

At the age of fourteen, he thought to himself, "what a magnificent challenge it would be to run, without stopping, all of the way around Big Bear Lake". The lake is situated at about 6,800 feet of elevation in the San Bernardino National Forest and lays out roughly in an east-to-west fashion and measures seven miles long and about one mile wide at its widest point. The run around the lake is approximately 15 miles … a good challenge for anyone, especially a fourteen year old.

One might wonder how one moves himself from just musing about a decent running challenge to representing the United States in the iconic athletic event of the modern day Olympics.

The Faith of Olympic Runner Ryan Hall -

This excerpted and edited from transcripts published by the 700 Club – Olympic Runner Ryan Hall (a 700 Club interview)

Ryan's been running since he was 14 years old. Time has taught him that seeking to please God is the ultimate goal.
By Will Dawson, The700 Club – July 29, 2008

Ryan Hall represents the United States in this year’s summer games in Beijing in the marathon event.

In the words of Ryan Hall:

Ryan says his desire to run comes from God. “God kind of grabbed my heart just one day when I was driving around this lake right here and he really just put it on my heart to run around it. It’s 15 miles around the lake and I was 14-years-old. It’s not something that most 14-year-olds try and do or have a desire to do. He really put it on my heart to give it a shot and it was that day that I decided I wanted to act on this vision that God had given me. That’s what hooked me and I’ve been running ever since.”

Athleticism runs in the Hall family. Ryan’s dad, Mickey, played minor league baseball and his younger brother, Chad, won the cross-country national championship his senior year in high school.

Ryan Hall training on the North Shore of Big Bear Lake with the solar Observatory in the background. Image Credit: CBN 700 Club Video

Ryan’s senior season proved successful as well, as he took home the California state track title in both the two-mile and 1600-meter events. While his performance earned him a scholarship at Stanford, Ryan says the Olympics was always his goal.

"Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to be an Olympian. What does it take to be an Olympian? I was dreaming about the Olympics. I was dreaming about competing against the best guys in the world. I was just a dreamer. I had big aspirations going into college.”
Ryan’s run toward Olympic gold hasn’t always been paved with promise. While at Stanford, Ryan suffered leg injuries which hampered his performance. “I was really frustrated with the way running was going. My identity had kind of been caught up in my running. I remember I’d wake up in the morning and the first thing I’d think about was, ‘how’s my running going?’ I’d be like, ‘oh it’s not going well,’ and the rest of my day wouldn’t be very enjoyable
“I’m sitting there in church and the guy who is speaking calls me up, tells me to stand up and gives me this Bible verse. It comes from Psalms 20 and it says that He will give you the desires of your heart and that we will sing for joy about your victory and that we will wave our banners high. So he’s giving me this prophecy at the very worst moment in my running and my training. It’s hard to have the faith to believe that was actually going to happen.”

Ryan Hall returns to run at Stanford University. Image Credit: CBN 700 Club Video

Ryan returned to Stanford and competed well in his junior and senior seasons. This time, he focused on his relationship with God.
Three years later, in 2007, came Ryan’s crowning achievement. He set an American trials record at the New York City Olympic time trials. That made him the fastest American-born marathon runner in history. And yes, that qualified him for his first Olympic games.

Ryan Hall setting the record as the fastest American-born marathoner in history at the November 3, 2007 New York City Olympic time trials. Image Credit: CBN 700 Club Video

“What unfolded on November third at the Olympic trials blew my mind away. I just felt amazing during that race. I just felt like I was floating out there. The best way for me to describe it is when David danced before the Lord with all his might - unashamedly.

That’s kind of what I was doing out there. I was just praising God. It was a very special moment for me; one that I’ll always remember. More so because I know what God took me through to get me to that time.”
“I know that I can live without a gold medal, but at the same time it would be very exciting to win the gold medal and my goal is simply to praise God with every step I take. God says my grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness.”

“What I’ve experienced is that He gives me enough strength to get me through each and every race I’ve competed in and to get me through those tough moments when you’re hurting. One of my favorite verses comes from Proverbs. It says, ‘though a righteous man falls seven times he rises again.’

That describes my journey, just falling and getting back up. It’s a big part of marathon running. It’s a big part of our spiritual walk. It’s a big part of life - just learning to get back up.”
Reference Here>>

Tomorrow evening, August 4, Big Bear Lake (and the United States) gathers to give a send-off to Ryan Hall as he leaves to represent our country in the Beijing Olympics.

Ryan Hall London Marathon Workout - Big Bear Lake – Olympian

This excerpted from The Grizzly –

The Community Send-off is Monday, Aug. 4, at Big Bear Middle School. The event is a collaborative effort between The Lighthouse Project, Bear Valley Unified School District and the city of Big Bear Lake.

There is no charge to attend and provides everyone in the community the opportunity to cheer on Ryan as well as local students who have logged miles for the campaign. It will be a brief, upbeat and historic opportunity for the community to come together for such a great cause.

Born, raised, and educated "one mile closer to heaven's door" in Big Bear Lake, Ryan Hall looks to his inspiration as he sets a record time for any American-born citizen in the 26 miles of the iconic event of the Olympic movement - The Marathon. Image Credit: CBN 700 Club Video

Gates open at 4:30 p.m. and the event starts at 5:30 p.m. Parking at the facility is extremely limited, so MARTA has agreed to provide special trolley service to get people to and from the event easily. The trolley leaves from the Bartlett Parking Lot stop in the Village at 4 p.m. and drops riders at the middle school. The trolley then makes a stop near Vons at 4:20 p.m. and drops the riders back at the school. It will make the loop again at Bartlett and Vons, with the last pickup at Vons at 5 p.m.

The trolley makes all scheduled stops between the parking lots and middle school. The fare is $1 each way, seniors 60 and older ride for half price and children under 6 ride free. “We really hope the whole community will come out and enjoy this special event."
Reference Here>>

UPDATE - August 4, 2008:

Ryan Hall takes a second lap around the Minder Field track that surrounds the football field where the Big Bear Bears compete in the fall season. Ryan, in the middle of the frame, is being photographed by news crews while carrying an Olympic flag. Members of his family surround him while wearing blue shirts and red "Run, Ryan Run" ball caps. His wife, Sara, also in blue and no cap, is tracking along his side in the right of the frame. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (MAXINE) 2008

And the whole community did just that ... about 2,000 people showed up (a total of approximately 6,000 residents live in the Big Bear Valley) along with camera crews from some of the major broadcast media outlets in Los Angeles (KNBC 4 comes to mind), students from the local schools (today was the first day of the fall semester), citizens, and vacationeers from around Southern California.

One of the featured moments was when Ryan Hall's father, Mickey Hall led the gathering in a heartfelt prayer to ask for God's blessing for the travel to China and the events to come.

UPDATE - August 22, 2008:

The Bear in Beijing! KBHR's Rick Herrick will be bringing you live updates on the Summer Olympics from Beijing--so be sure to keep your radio tuned to KBHR 93.3 FM through the weekend. Image Credit: KBHR 93.3 FM

This notice found at the KBHR 93.3 FM website -

Ryan Hall Readies for Olympic Marathon; Community Viewing Party at the Convention Center on Saturday

We've received word from Ryan Hall, who says that training for the Olympic marathon in Beijing has been going really well. The 25-year-old runner reports his days since arriving have been filled with training, icing, stretching and therapy as he prepares for Sunday morning's marathon race which, again, airs in Big Bear on Saturday, with NBC television coverage on the Olympic marathon starting at 6:30pm.

Ryan and Sara Hall on their final lap of Minder Field before departing for Beijing, China for the Olympics. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (MAXINE) 2008

The community viewing party to cheer on our local Olympian takes place at the Big Bear Convention Center, and doors open at 2pm for the free event, which will also include children's activities, live entertainment, and food and drinks for purchase. All proceeds from this event on Saturday afternoon will benefit the Big Bear High School athletics department, so there's one more reason to join your friends and neighbors to cheer “run Ryan run!”

And while watching coverage of the Olympic marathon, be sure to look for the Run Ryan Run banners, including the million mile one that the Lighthouse Project presented to Hall during the August 4 community send-off, which has since been signed by members of our community and traveled to Beijing with Hall's parents Mickey and Susie.

Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (MAXINE) 2008

UPDATE August 23, 2008:

What air problem? Marathon runners ready to go

By LISA DILLMAN Tribune Olympic Bureau - 6:44 PM CDT, August 22, 2008 BEIJING

Forget disturbing weather forecasts and pollution-index numbers.

That's so yesterday.

The choked, clogged air of Week 1 seemed like a distant memory on the eve of the men's Olympic marathon. Blue skies and sun have been the norm in the latter stages of the Olympic Games, and the forecast is for the low 70s when the race starts at 7:30 a.m. (Beijing time) at Tiananmen Square on Sunday.

The view from the hall window next to Phil Hersh's Beijing hotel room at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 23. Phil says, "Hot, very humid with a pale blue sky." Image Credit: Phil Hersh, Chicago Tribune / August 23, 2008
Lel and his countryman Samuel Wanjiru of Kenya would be considered favorites based on their credentials, but the Olympic marathon is often wildly unpredictable.

Four years ago in Athens, Vanderlei de Lima of Brazil was leading about four miles from the finish when a protester, who was wearing a kilt and a beret, inexplicably attacked him and pushed him to the side of the course. Stefano Baldini of Italy ended up winning and Meb Keflezighi of the United States took the silver and the luckless de Lima the bronze.

The U.S. entrants are trials winner and first-time Olympian Ryan Hall, who grew up in Big Bear and trains at Mammoth Lakes, Brian Sell of Rochester Hills, Mich., and Dathan Ritzenhein of Rockford, Mich. Hall, whose personal best of 2:06.17 came this year in the London Marathon, arrived in China a couple of weeks early to get adjusted and detailed taking his first run in Beijing.

"I have never sweat so much in my entire life," Hall wrote in his own blog. "By the end of the 30-minute easy run I was dripping in sweat. I was glad that I was there 2 ½ weeks early to get used to the humidity.

"I had practiced in warm temperatures and over-dressed in practice, but there was nothing I could have done to totally prepare for this level of humidity besides getting over here early to make the adjustment."

Reference Here>>

Final UPDATE - Sunday, August 24, 2008:

Top Mettle: Ryan Hall Places 10th in His Olympic Marathon Debut!

Story By KBHR 93.3 FM

Next Stops: Spain, Chicago, Zambia With his family including wife Sara with him in China, Ryan Hall made his Olympic debut in the August 24 Olympic marathon in Beijing--while, back home in Big Bear, red hats and cheers of “Run Ryan Run!” filled the packed Convention Center for the community viewing party to watch 2001 Big Bear High School graduate Hall compete in only his fourth marathon ever.

Hall received much media coverage during the televised event, including a profile piece (which also featured dad and coach Mickey training with Ryan here in Big Bear), as the 25-year-old runner ran the 26.2 mile race, working his way up from 30something to 10 in a field of over 90 runners. Hall ultimately placed an impressive 10th at 2:12:33 in the Olympic marathon, just six minutes and a second behind gold medal winner Samuel Wansiru of Kenya, who set a new Olympic record with his time of 2:06:32.

So what's next for Hall, now that he has realized his personal dream of competing in the Olympics? Prior to leaving for Beijing, Hall said that he plans to accompany his wife to a running competition in Spain before the two attend the Chicago marathon, on behalf of Team World Vision, on October 12.

Though Ryan has said, “I really love my life and there's nothing I'd rather do than train hard and keep focused,” the Halls are planning an October visit to Zambia as well. There, they will participate in a community water project using proceeds from the Chicago marathon. Adds Hall, “Sara and I, our goal is to feed God's children.”

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