Ryan Hall carried a huge burden of hopes — his own and others — into his debut marathon at Flora London, the world’s pre-eminent 26.2-mile footrace, this morning. Having crushed the American record for the half-marathon in January with a 59:43, Hall appeared capable of a sub-2:10. Most of the time, however, it takes even the greats a few tries to nail down a quality marathon — particularly younger bucks with comparatively little road and track seasoning.
Hall has left no doubt as to his grit, preparation, and capabilites. The 24-year-old from Big Bear Lake, California ran the race of his life, fronting the lead pack of eight late in the race and eventually ceding the point to a half-dozen Africans, including fellow debutante Abderrahim Goumri (2nd) and world record holder Paul Tergat (6th).
It was a near-blanket finish for the top men, at least by marathon standards:
1. Martin Lel (Ken) 2:07:41
2. Abderrahim Goumri (Mor) 2:07:44
3. Felix Limo (Ken) 2:07:47
4. Jaouad Gharib (Mor) 2:07:54
5. Hendrick Ramaala (SA) 2:07:56
6. Paul Tergat (Ken) 2:08:05
7. Ryan Hall (US) 2:08:24
8. Marilson dos Santos (Bzl) 2:08:37
9. Dan Robinson (GB) 2:14:14
10. Andi Jones (GB) 2:17:49
Hall’s time is the fastest-ever debut marathon by an American and ranks him behind only former world record holder Khalid Khannouchi (2:05:38) on the all-time U.S. performance list. It also makes him the fastest-ever marathoner born in the United States, something it’s evidently racist to point out.
Hall’s timing is looking as good as his talent, with 2008 being an Olympic year. It will be interesting to see if he skips the track and field Olympic trials altogether in favor of focusing on the marathon; since that meet will serve as the U.S. Track and Field Championship in 2008 and would not interfere with Hall’s putative marathon preparation (the Olympic Trials for that event are this November, while the track and field Trials are in June 2008), one would expect him to race a 5K or 10K there regardless.