Monday, August 13, 2012

Ryan Hall’s DNF

Before I get into controversy, I want to acknowledge Meb’s incredible performance in the Olympic marathon yesterday. He finished in 4th place with a time of 2:11:06.

And, of course, major kudos to Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda who took the gold by running the race in 2:08:01.

Much of the Olympic marathon spotlight, however, has been on Ryan Hall, who dropped out of the Olympic marathon  at the 10 mile mark, in 50th place. He blamed his DNF (did not finish) on a hamstring injury. His tweet after dropping out:

image

Hall has taken some heat for not finishing the race. Many believe that if he knew he was injured (Hall reports he has suffered from plantar fasciitis for 7 months and hamstring problems for 2 months leading up to the race), he should not have “taken someone else’s spot” at the Olympics. Others think that regardless of his injury, he should have gutted it out and finished, even if it took him 4 hours. Many speculate he dropped out once he knew he would not medal.

Hall’s supporters think he did the right thing by not injuring himself further. After all, running is Hall’s livelihood and he should not jeopardize his career for “one” race, even if it is the Olympics.

Another American marathoner, Abdi Abdirahman, also dropped out citing a “pop” in his knee. Desiree Davila quit the women’s marathon at the 5K mark due to a hip flexor injury (incurred five weeks prior to the race – she knew she would not make it the full distance).

I think more emphasis has been put on Hall’s DNF because he has been one of the most promising American marathoners in recent  years, and people wanted to see how he could do. Also, Hall has been very public about not having a (non-eternal) coach, but using God as his guide throughout his training. This has raised some eyebrows and tweaked curiosity about what he would be able to accomplish.

After Meb crossed the line yesterday, I kept waiting for Hall. He never came. Ken finally looked it up on line and that’s how we found out he DNF’d. I was disappointed. It seemed to me that he must have come to the game pretty compromised. I thought of Paula Radcliffe and how she stepped down a week before the race due to injury. Part of me felt like Hall should have done that as well, and maybe given up his spot to someone else.

I do understand the fine line pro athletes walk (run) with injury. They have to know when to say when to protect future races and their careers. It is not uncommon for them to drop out rather than risk further injury. Must be a very tough spot to be in.

The truth is, I’ve never been in Hall’s shoes so I don’t entirely get it and can’t and shouldn’t judge. I don’t completely understand, however, why he came to race when he knew he was injured.

Any thoughts on Hall’s decision yesterday?

SUAR

77 comments:

  1. I'm curious why he ran in the first place? Did he think he could finish and then found he couldn't? Was he willing to make his injury worse if there was a medal involved? I can't really judge, because I don't know what I would do in that position.

    It's interesting that the US had 3 injured runners drop though.

    Go Meb!

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  2. I believe that it would have been nearly impossible to find another American to take Hall's place in the marathon- even if it was up to a week (or two) in advance. With that said, I think he did the right thing and give it an honest try.

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    1. Good point - although if he was injured up to several months ago, would that have been enough time to replace him?

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    2. But if he was injured several months ago, he probably thought he could heal and work through it. Unless the injury was major, then I don't see how you could absolutely know that you wouldn't be ready and would give up your Olympic spot.

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    3. Hall was obviously good to go at the trials in Houston in January. When was he injured? I don't know but I would assume that many months lead time would be required to find a replacement. But what runner doesn't think they can heal in a few weeks let alone a few months?
      Also, I need to quit posting under "anonymous"!

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  3. I don't really buy the argument that he took someone else's spot. No one else would have been ready enough to run the marathon well either even with a month or so notice. Now if it was a longer amount of time, then I could see. Besides Ritz was already committed to competing in the 10K so the 'alternate' wasn't really available to jump in. I think they should be given credit for getting out there and trying to run the race, and I don't blame them for dropping out rather than risk further injury. It's not like Ryan and Abdi have histories of DNF, and I'm sure it was a horrible decision to have to make.

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  4. Not sure how I feel....I heard (Not sure it's true...but came from a running friend of mine) that Des got a cool "$20,000" for just starting the race - and well...money is money. And..for some reason, I believe that we runners are stubborn mules most of the time. We don't want to stop running when we hurt (I'm in that boat right now -- but I am listening to my PT, blah) -- we don't want to give up that ultimate hope that "maybe it just won't hurt too bad this time," Or, "I know this run will be pain free (as I limp through my warm up 1 mile).

    IDK...it is his career...his lively hood...if he felt that his future could be compromised -- then he did the right thing. Heck, I am taking a break from running because I don't want to be injured any further and I'm just some running-hack from Michigan :)

    My thoughts.

    Melanie

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    1. I agree! Most runners are stubborn, especially when it comes to injury. If it's the Olympics and my job, I would do whatever it took to get to the start line.

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  5. Time to replace God with Alberto Salazar.

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    1. exactly what I said....! (or Bob Larson)

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  6. Saw this on another forum and thought it was funny given how often they were playing that Hall commercial "After listening to the Odyssey and Moby Dick on his last long run Hall decided to listen to The Cat in the Hat today."

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  7. I could have sworn that I heard buzz about his injury days ago, which made me wonder why he'd started at all. If that's the case (and it's not just NBC tape delays distorting my sense of timing) it seems to me that bowing out graciously before the start like Paula Radcliffe is the more "Olympian" way to go, rather than struggling through 10 miles and possibly causing himself further injury. In hindsight, it sounds like the combination of injuries that he's sustained in the past year would have made a medal-contending performance nearly impossible, so maybe it would have been better if he'd stepped aside and given his spot to someone else.

    That said, I watched the marathon with my 5yo who saw Kiprotich pull away at mile 23 and declared, "That dude just smoked those other guys! He doesn't even look tired! There's no way they're going to catch him!" I think he has a future in race commentary.

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    1. Yeah, not even close - your 5 yo nailed it!

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  8. I watched the entire marathon from the start and he never contended with the leaders - makes me think he knew before the start that he was in serious jeopardy of a DNF if he started. Based on Ryan's comments just after he dropped out he seemed very humbled by his DNF...it is the Olympics after all.

    I do wonder about his self coaching approach...not to say it would have changed anything on Sunday but I do wonder.

    Go Meb!

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  9. Last week before the women's marathon, Desiree said that you just have to start to be considered an official "Olympian"; you don't have to finish.

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  10. I think God might have been busy helping out the basket ball team and forgot about Ryan?

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  11. My first thought was that he was suffering from the heat and humidity (it was 70+ degrees and near 80% humidity which makes me wilt to think of running in it). I also was one of those that felt that he knew he wasn't going to medal so he figured why put yourself through that torture if you're not going to get the result you want, especially since he didn't seem to be suffering any when he stopped, as opposed to Abdirahman who had a pronounced limp. If that were the case, if he quit because he wasn't going to medal - that is not sport. Sport is Darwinism in action. You're the best on that day, or you aren't. You can't know when you're going to medal - can you imagine how sparse the field of competition would be if no one ran that knew they would not get a medal? I hope he was really suffering an injury (I know that sounds bad) and not just quitting because he was way back in the pack.

    I was proud of Meb for his gutsy run, moving up from 15th to 4th, especially since he's 37 years old. Kiprotich was spectacular...I saw him grabbing at his hip @ mile 23 and thought he was going to fade, and around the next corner he shot into the lead and never looked back. I don't know if that was a rope-a-dope maneuver or what, but it was exciting to see.

    I was also inspired by the guy from South Sudan who ran under the IOC flag. He's the lone Olympian representing the planet's newest country, and even with a 40th place finish he was grinning from ear to ear. As a political refugee from a war torn land, he was ecstatic just to compete. That makes me even more strongly hope Hall's motivation had nothing to do with his place in the pack.

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  12. I have to disagree with those who say it would have been impossible to find a replacement for Hall a month before London. How many guys went to the trials in January? What? We think they all quit training after they didn't qualify?

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    1. Agree. Any of them can run 26.2 on a moments notice. Even if they didnt medal there are many who ran at the trials who would be happy to be there. It sounds callous, but either finish it no matter what or give your spot to someone who will. It would be entirely different if something happened acutely during the race...but that's not the case fir either if them.

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  13. I would say that God is sending Hall a message. Quit being so arrogant and get yourself a coach. We are not always meant to go it alone and God has more important things to do than concentrate on Ryan's training.

    Did you see his pre-race interview? He has realized how amazing he (himself) really is.

    The Kidless Kronicles

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    1. I did hear that quip...my wife and I looked at each other and had the same expression on our faces. I said "I don't think that came out quite how he intended...."

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  14. There had to have been runners from the trials who were tapped as alternates and trained as such leading up to the games.
    As for the 3 runners who DNF'd, making an appearance (especially for sponsors)at the games is a financial decision as well as for the Olympic experience.
    If it were me, I'd like to say that I would not have started and let someone else (in better health) start.

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  15. 1. Go Meb.
    2. I think USA should stick to the shorter distances, LOL. We rocked the track!

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  16. So has "doing a Paula", referring to Paula Radcliff's 2004 Olympic performance, been replaced with "doing a Ryan"?

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  17. To go in with a plan of not finishing (if that's what he did) is wrong. I am sure there were many other runners trained and qualified to replace him. Even if they weren't Olympics-ready, they were more ready than he was.

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  18. My hubby and I immediately thought the same thing as we discovered this DNF on Sunday - that this was actually about money. Running is Hall's full career, he has to take into account his sponsors, and what a major loss could have done to his future income. I don't mean it to sound that he is money hungry, but more so that it really is how he pays his bills. By not running the race, he doesn't have to list a "bad time" in his career stats. He knew he wasn't going to medal going into it and the main thing to shoot for as in the top 10. If he didn't make the top 10, he could have possibly risked losing sponsors in the next couple years. Right now, no sponsor has to consider a major loss with him. A DNF is kept as an injury situation which I'm sure sponsors are ok with. (Ie, all this reminds me a bit of the Peyton Manning controversy ... should he just retire with his injuries ... who will now continue to pay money for him ... assuming the move to Colorado was over money and other factors that still haven't come out in public). Well, guess my main point is that I think this was all really over money and his livelihood.

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  19. It seems greedy to take that spot away from someone even if money and sponsorships are at stake. I think I would rather DNS then DNF.

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  20. What's he going to do after he retires? He can't really coach, I mean is he a better coach than God?

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  21. I'm not sure if he should have started or not, but I'm really disappointed that he didn't finish. And maybe it's just me, or maybe he hides his emotions really well, but he doesn't seem all that upset about the outcome. NBC interviewed him a little after 7am yesterday and he just didn't seem upset about it, and to say it was a 'bummer day'? Maybe his reaction was due to his trust in God, but I'd be pissed if I had to drop out of the Olympic marathon. Or any marathon at that! I broke my foot during the NYCM and still finished. Granted I'm not a professional athlete who has to count on future races for income, but still, I finished.

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  22. First Meb is awesome. Such a smart racer and he is so excited to be not just an Olympian but to represent his country the USA. He seemed to embody what most of us think of an Olympian. Someone willing do push himself further than what he though he could given that he had an injury going into the event. I don't see Meb ever dropping out of a race where he has the pride of his country as part of the mix.
    That is the difference with what I saw Hall. I didn't get the feeling the cared about representing the USA but only himself. 'Bummer day' doesn't really say I am sorry to my fans and country that I couldn't do more for you today.
    As far as the DNS/DNf thing- As a former High School coach we had a back up alternate list for every event at all the big meets. As a coach I didn't let the kid who was injured decided how injured they were. I kinda blame that on the USATF. I get that you earned your spot but so did the girls gymnastics team- they named alternates- and I guarantee that Marta Karoli would not have hesitated to pull one if the girls if she was injured. USATF should have a printed alternate and the head coach should have the power to replace someone.

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  23. I've never been at Ryan's level but I've gone to marathons where I could barely walk to the starting line but everything cleared up as I ran and finished respectably. I'm sure Ryan was hoping for his hitch to smooth out as he ran and that's why he went 10 miles before quitting.

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  24. Sadly, I think it's a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. If Hall didn't even start, surely naysayers would have something to say.

    On a Facebook group I belong to, the discussion is "it's the Olympics! You finish it to say you did!" whole I don't agree, the related sentiment is "it's the Olympics! You don't give up your spot!"

    I was surprised Desi started, as I'd heard a few weeks before she was out. Your post seems to imply she had no intentions of finishing. I think that's a pretty interesting topic itself...

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    1. Yes, the interviews that I read said that she did not see herself completing the full 26.2.

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  25. 1. Go Meb. He is awesome.

    2. Desiree said that you just have to start to be considered an official "Olympian"; you don't have to finish. I think she should have never said that...makes me wonder if that was the only reason she ran the 3 miles.

    3. 20 runners did not finish the men's marathon.....

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  26. I am very disappointed in the three American runners who quit. Now go and watch the finish of the womans marathon.....the complete finish. A woman from Ireland who qualified with a 2:36, had a terrible day. She ran the full course, crying and in pain. That woman finished! It took her 3:22. I am sure she was hurt and in pain. She ran to her coach sobbing. BUT THAT WOMAN FINISHED. America did not send 6 runners to see them start the race, we sent them so we could see them finish. Ireland woman marathon finisher could teach them a thing or two--she was an OLYMPIAN-- Desi, Ryan, and Abdi I could do what they did.
    -Kristi

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    1. Kristi I have to totally agree with you. This is the Olympics. It is like the holy grail of sports. You go, you blow up trying your hardest then you finish, even if it means crawling. If they had asked any of the other marathoners who did not get on a team, if they can be in London in 2 days and ready to race, I bet 99% would run to the airport to compete for that opportunity. You can find someone to replace on the drop of a dime.
      Laura

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  27. I think it's interesting firstly how big of a fuss I'm seeing over Ryan Hall but not over Desiree who was in a similar scenario.

    In my humble opinion, these runners who were unable to finish earned their spots and worked harder than I could ever imagine to get to that point. Sure, Ryan and Desi would have been so gracious to give their spots away, but they are by no means UNgracious for keeping what was theirs to begin with. As Desi stated, you're not an Olympian until you start and I think it's great that they started and gave it all that they could (without causing further injury). Running for 10 miles is a great attempt especially when you consider that this is his livelihood and he was potentially putting that in danger. Sure, the marathoner from Ireland was inspiring and brave, but she probably wasn't being very smart. I hope she's okay.

    We cannot ever say with certainty what they were thinking before they stepped to the starting line (whether they knew they were going to bow out of the race, fight through, have a great run, etc) so at the end of the day, everyone is making a big fuss about nothing.

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  28. Hall did what he could. People need to get off his case. Do they even select an alternate for the Olympic marathon in this country? The logistics with getting an athlete/team to the Games is pretty significant. It isn't as simple as saying, "Yo...dude...someone's hurt...wanna run? Get on the plane and go, man...you're in!" I place ZERO judgement on him and his decision...or on any runner who DNFs. Ever. Pretty awesome that Meb got fourth. And very incredible that his finish time was so close to my DNFed elliptical marathon time Sunday morning ;-)

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  29. Ken had to go online to find out what happened? You mean you didn't get the whole race on TV? The BBC, which covered it from beginning to end, showed him pulling up ... NBC seem to have deprived you guys of the Olympic experience. And been a very bad ambassador for your country.

    What takes courage in Hall's situation is the decision to stop. Of course all runners are entirely rational and stop the moment their bodies advise us to - but in a big event like that it must be harder ... If it were me, perhaps it would help that I knew it was unlikely to be shown on TV back home.

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    1. We missed it being broadcast live and had to find a link online where to watch it. As Ann said below, NBC did cover it completely. This was just my experience. So, no I don't think NBC was "depriving" anyone of anything.

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    2. NBC was horrible in coverage, period.

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  30. I watched the men's marathon Sunday morning, on NBC. It was live and they showed Ryan Hall dropping out. They even talked to him a few minutes after he dropped out.

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  31. I was disappointed with his attitude. I understand living your life to please God (that's what Christians are supposed to do), but if you make a commitment and receive the HONOR of representing your country - and that in NO WAY conflicts with pleasing God - then you darn well better honor that commitment to the best of your ability. He was very flip about whether or not he would do well - it just didn't matter to him. BUT. It mattered to his countrymen who he was representing. He should have looked a bit beyond himself before he decided to be called an American Olympic athlete. Of course, that's just my opinion. It isn't so much that he dropped out, it's his arrogance I think. That's why people are so much more critical of him than the others.

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  32. It's such an interesting contrast to what the UK did - both Paula and Lee Merrian (in then men's race) failed their fitness tests and withdrew from the team. There was no alternate on the men's side (no one else had made the qualifying standard), but Freya Murray got the call to take Paula's place and actually ended up being the top GB finisher. Paula made some incredibly nice statements and even called Freya - along the lines of her being very, very sad that she couldn't compete, but glad that someone from the next generation of GB marathoners would be able to take her place. It was such a classy gesture that really contrasts with what the Americans did, particularly Desi, who knew she was injured going into the race.

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    1. Yes. It contrasts so sharply with the way the American runners handled themselves and their situations.

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    2. Just being picky, but it was Dave Webb who withdrew - Lee Merrien finished 30th in 2h17m. :)

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    3. You're so right Liz, I'm an idiot who apparently can't be bothered to check basic facts. :-)

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  33. We don't know to what extent the hamstring was bothering Hall. Haven't we all run with hampstring pain? or other aches and pains? Sometimes the pain stays constant and we push through. Sometimes the pain gets worse and we know we have to quit. Maybe that was what happened to Ryan. He began with pain, which he had been able to push through in training and was hoping that he could do the same in the race.
    The field started out fast. The course was challenging in that it offered some sharp turns. As Flanagan said, it wasn't so much exhaustion that got to her in the women's olympic marathon as it was muscular pain.
    I'm a Ryan Hall fan all the way. He'll be back.

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  34. First of all, I'm a huge Hall supporter. My sister lives in his hometown and he's apparently a really great guy. I've been having hamstring tightness, it comes and goes but gets aggravated on hills. Some days it's fine, other days I question whether to run. I've skipped a few training days for the pool, and I'm finally coming around the bend. Haven't had pain in a a week. I believe hamstrings are one of the more difficult injuries; if it's not severe enough to sideline you, should you run through it? Will you make it worse? When he was interviewed he was clearly stunned and said it was his first DNF. A key comment was "I was changing my stride because of the pain." I think if he could have run through it, he would have. It seemed that once it altered how he safely runs he knew it was not wise to continue.

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  35. Easy for us to sit and make judgments without knowing the whole story. Sometimes you start out thinking an injury isn't enough to stop or slow you down, then realize it is way worse than you thought. From what I've read, this is the first race he's ever DNF'd, so I doubt he did it lightly or just because he realized he wouldn't medal. The course seemed like a particularly tough one with the turns and surface, too, which no doubt aggravated things more for some people.

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    1. I agree... both Flangan and Goucher talked about how tough the course was and the different muscle strains due to the sharp turns of the course.

      As for those who suggested replacing God with a mere human for the coach... really? That's a joke I'm not willing to laugh about... I value my God too much for funniness.

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  36. I was so excited to see how well Meb did! I feel bad for Hall having to drop out. As runners, we all know we would NOT want to do that. Running professionally is how he provides for his family, so a career ending injury would be terrible. I guess he took a gamble that he would be okay injury-wise through the race...that course did not seem very good if you were nursing an injury. Lots of turning!

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  37. First I will admit, I know very little about Ryan Hall's demeanour and coaching strategy. That being said, he's a 29 year old with a chance to run in the premiere event of the summer olympics. This is not a race that comes around every year, and is probably the most important event in his running career to reach. Injury or not, that is hard to just give up, when he worked damn hard to get there. It's the freaking olympics! I just think that many people are throwing stones in glass houses, and I can personally admit that I would be greedy and keep that spot for myself, and think many runners would have done the same.

    I wanted him to finish, because a slow finish is better than a DNF, but if he was injured that badly, maybe it wasn't a real option.

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  39. I agree - any criticism injury must be tempered by the fact that only the individual knows. But this is a troubling pattern. Maybe this was his first DNF – but there has been at least one suspect DNS. Hall backed out of the 2010 Chicago Marathon and there was speculation at the time that he did not feel prepared – capable – of running with the very strong field that include the 2008 Olympic champion Sammy Wanjuro. And at the Olympic trials in Houston (which I attended) Hall seemed to be very satisfied to finish second – instead of pushing Meb at the end. Finally, I would argue that backing out of a B or C race based upon a runnable injury is one thing – but this was the Olympics. In the end, I am starting to doubt Hall’s competitive heart.

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  40. When Paula Radcliffe pulled out of the marathon inAthens 2004, the British press and public also accused her of stopping becuase she wasn't going to get a medal. I'm sure like most of us runners, the elites try to deny the seriousness of an injury, and hope they can make it to the end.

    I was there, looking out for Ryan Hall, but as I never saw him over 3 laps, I guessed he had DNF'd. It was a really hot day and a tough race. I would have liked to have seen him in the medals...

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  41. I'm surprised that NBC didn't mention the two American dropouts during the marathon. Mind you, they didn't show the mens 100m final live either did they? LOL I watched on TSN here in Canada and it was mentioned a few times about Hall and the other guy. I don't know what kind of running background NBC's commentators have, but on our channels (CTV & TSN) they had one former athlete in that field giving commentary along with a regular channel personality. The one pro doing the marathon said that if you had niggling injuries, this course would bring them to the forefront. Did you actually see how many DNF's there were? TONS! Canada was actually one of the only countries who had all three runners finish. If this was a team sport we would have won bronze! LOL

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    1. During the last 45 minutes of the marathon they showed Meb with a caption underneath that said, "the only remaining American in the marathon". It took me HOURS to figure out Hall DNF.

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  42. The Lord's day of rest is Sunday. Clearly, Hall was without guidance as his coach was off resting.

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  43. I watched the marathon on NBC (in New York) and they showed Hall dropping out when he did it. I wonder why others didn't get to see it?

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  44. Things happen. The marathon is one of the great equalizers in running. No matter your ability it is entirely possible that on any given day you might just have a bad race. It just wasn’t your day. You can experience this in training as much as you can on race day itself. This also applies to other distances as well.

    You could have trained well and be fully on track to PR in your next 5K yet on race day something goes wrong. A muscle spasms, you arrive to the start late and have to weave through slower runners adding time and distance to your run, it’s a 90° day, it is below freezing with ice pellets hitting your face causing your to go numb and your lungs to sting with every breath. You can’t control everything that will affect your performance so don’t beat yourself up over things. Know you gave your best effort.

    http://runneracademy.com/ryan-halls-olympic-marathon-dnf-what-you-can-learn/

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  45. Ryan Hall is an Olympian- he earned the spot and it was his to decide what to do with it. Its unfortunate he got hurt but thats what happens when you're running as an elite. He will likely go over this DNF for the rest of his life and I dont imagine it was an easy decision to make. I think its the smart thing to do if you're risking further injury as he had already 'proved' his abilities in Houston (and in countless other races). Hes a different duck thats for sure when it comes to training/running but thats whats great about our sport. We're all motivated and enouraged by different thing/people/events and in Ryan's case its his religion. More power to him. Do your thing Ryan and he'll be back out there when hes ready.

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    1. I disagree that its his spot and his decision. No other olympic sport works that way. Its the coaches' call.

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  46. The real question here should be: Why are all these American marathoners getting injured? What is the medical staff doing for them? Yes, injuries are part of the game but prevention is as well and what is the problem with the US medical staff that so many were hurt?

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  47. I think it's a tough decision that Ryan Hall had to make. If I was in his situation I'd want the opportunity to try to do my olympic race too despite the injury. I think a lot of the athletes at his level put so much pressure on themselves to preform for their races because it is their career. I can think of times when I was moderately injured and I still raced because it was important to me; I'm sure he wanted to do the same. I'm just glad despite his goals there was a point that he knew his health in the long run was more important. How hard is it to tell a nation you feel disappointed with your results but are happy for those that you cheered on? It takes such a strong individual to do that no matter the decisions that brought you to these circumstances.

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