Monday, August 20, 2012

Ryan Hall - Christian Runner or Running Christian

American distance runner Ryan Hall has been in the news a lot in recent months. Leading up to the London Olympics, he did several interviews that centered on his controversial coach: God. Yes, Hall is "self-coached" but he claims that he's not really alone. This isn't merely posturing. Many have heard how he once wrote God in as his coach on an official drug test form. When he was told by an official to list a real person, he responded with "He is a real person". Obviously Hall doesn't struggle with conviction.

The New York Times featured an in depth article detailing exactly how Hall manages to be a "legitimate" faith based runner. Apart from devotional acts that most would expect from a professing Christian (praying, reading scripture, etc), Hall even takes one day off from training to honor the Sabbath - itself a sin to many in the distance running world.

Hall doesn't get overly literal about this, however. Hall was quoted saying "The Bible is not going to tell you how to be a good runner, just like it's not going to tell you how to build a computer," It could be said that he relies on God more for inspiration than absolute direction. (Ex - Try to push yourself today vs Run 10x1000 at tempo). Not to say absolute direction from God can't or hasn't happened. That's a question for Hall to answer.

After his 2nd place finish at the US Olympic Trials, there was little doubt in the running world that Hall had a shot at bringing home some hardware from London. The final day of the Olympics arrived and everyone was ready to see him shine.

Then, it happened. Just 10 miles into the race, Ryan Hall dropped out of the marathon - a career first. I had never seen anything like it. Sitting on my couch in the early morning hours, I was simply shocked.

I went on Twitter later that day searching for people bashing Hall and his coach. What I found was much more uplifting.

"You continue to inspire me," with the hashtag #GodIsStillGood  - Ryan Hall to Meb Keflezighi, Hall's teammate who was the only American to finish the marathon.

While most would say Hall failed in London, I think he achieved something amazing.

Hall's motivation for switching to faith based training are well summed up in this quote:
“I was a runner who happened to be a Christian. I needed to become a Christian who happened to be a runner.” Simply - Ryan wanted to go from being a Christian runner, a type of runner, to a running Christian, a type of Christian.

If Ryan was a Christian runner when he toed the line in London, his goal would have been to win the race, and a DNF would have totally demoralized him. Since it's pretty obvious that, while he was no doubt shocked and upset, Hall found a silver lining in the outcome of the race and could put it in a bigger perspective, the label of Christian runner fails to define him.

So, Ryan, for what it's worth, it is this bloggers opinion that you should consider your task complete.
Ryan Hall, running Christian.

1st Corinthians 924Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.