The open road offers a lot of advice.

By Mallory Creveling
November 15, 2019

Elite distance runner Sara Hall has had quite a year. She snagged a marathon personal best just 35 days before this year's TCS New York City Marathon, finishing fifth overall in the Berlin Marathon with a time of 2:22:16. She also won the Mini 10K race in Central Park this past June, hitting the finish in a swift 32:27.

Covering 26.2 miles through the five boroughs of NYC two weeks ago was meant to serve as a sort of victory lap slash practice run for Hall—a chance for her to cruise through one of her favorite cities (she loves the energy, she says) and to compete in one more race before the Olympic trials in Atlanta come February. Plus, New York offers up a hilly course that mimics the tough elevation gain of Georgia, which could help Hall prepare.

But the day didn't turn out as planned. Hall ended up dropping out of the race around mile 18 thanks to a stomach illness she picked up the day before that was still plaguing her. "Committed to my plan and stayed positive as long as I could but had some stomach illness yesterday and today that left me feeling too weak and wobbly to keep going," she wrote in an Instagram post the day of the race. Like many elite runners, though, Hall has that uncanny ability to bounce back and find a positive outcome from a seemingly negative situation. (Related: Tips to Build Mental Strength from Pro Runner Kara Goucher)

Before race day, the mom of four (Hall adopted four sisters from Ethiopia with her husband Ryan, Hall, a former pro runner himself) said one of the biggest takeaways she wants her kids to learn from her is that failure is OK and you have to learn to pick yourself back up. "[I get to show my kids first-hand] what it means to persevere and to take big risks," says Hall. "You have to have the courage to step back up to the starting line, even when you're not prepared." (Related: 24 Motivational Quotes for Runners)

Watching Hall drop out of the NYC marathon and be OK with that result proves she practices what she's preaching.

On that note, we asked Hall to share what other life lessons she's picked up from laying down thousands of miles on the pavement. Here, how she's living by example for her family—and what you can take away from her experiences, too.

1. The open road leads to better bonding.

Thanks to some seriously impressive speeds, Hall gets the opportunity to run with her daughters, regularly. (Her two oldest daughters can keep a pace of seven minutes per mile even in high altitudes, she explains.) So, while some families might catch up at the dinner table, Hall says she finds she can have a deeper conversation with her teenagers while out on a run. "The conversation just flows a lot easier when you're out on the run, [than] when you're just trying to talk to them in the house," says Hall. "So that's a special time we have together for sure." (Related: Could Altitude Training Rooms Be the Key to Your Next PR?)

2. Following your passion is a great way to lead by example.

Running has become even more meaningful to Hall since having kids, she says. "I get to model, in real-time, the things I want to instill in them," she explains. "First of all, just having something that makes you come alive—I think it's so important for kids to see their parents doing something that they really love and makes them come alive because that's what you hope for your kids, too." (Related: How I'm Using My Love of Fitness to Teach My Kid to Enjoy Exercise)

Hall compares her passion for getting on the start line of a race to that of a sled dog getting ready to go out for a ride. It's a "put me in coach" mentality, she explains, saying she's just grateful for the chance to get out there. That's something her daughters get to see close up.

3. Failure doesn't define you, so don't let it scare you.

Early in her career, Hall, now 36, says she built a lot of her self-worth around her running success but says she later learned that her value was never really on the line—and that made her embrace failure rather than fear it. It also got her more excited about lacing up her shoes, she adds. "Racing is a lot less stressful when you're not afraid of failing," she says. "I think you go into it better and come out of it better." (Related: Cassey Ho Shares Why Even She Feels Like a Failure Sometimes)

"I've failed a lot in my career, so I'm just able to move past it quicker now," says Hall. "When you realize your self-worth and your identity isn't riding on this race, then it's not as high stakes. I mean, I'm bummed when a race doesn't go well. I care a lot about it; I'm investing a lot in it and people are investing in me. So, it's not to say I don't care about the race. I'm bummed for about 24 hours, and then I'm like, 'OK, what's the next thing to set my sights on?' And I'm able to move forward."

Right now, there's no question what's next on her list. With the trials just three months away, Hall has her sights are set firmly on the 2020 Olympic Games, and you can bet her kids will be watching and rooting for her every stride of the way.


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