- 1. How do you deal with competing against the talented African athletes who dominate the elite races time and time again, often leaving other world-class athletes ‘chasing the pack’ or running on their own? (How do you motivate yourself… is there a magical mantra?)
I see the challenge of competing against talented East African runners as helping me get the most out of myself. I don’t see them as “unbeatable”. I learned this from watching my husband’s marathon career, he really broke down barriers by competing up front with the best runners of East African descent and didn’t concede to them. I’ve done a lot of training in Ethiopia and really enjoy getting pushed by the women there, and often I surprise myself training with some of their best runners. I try to have the same mentality in the race. Some of my favourite mantras are “relax and roll” and “the well is deep” – as in reminding myself a deep well of strength I can draw from, and even when I’m hurting I can keep hurting.
- 2.Where did you find the energy at the end of the 2020 London Marathon for that incredible sprint finish… Was it the power of the PB, or something more? Have things changed since your London Marathon success? If so, how?
Having a “kick” requires being strong enough to get to the end of the race and have something left, and also being inspired and excited about where you’re at. My London build up was the best marathon training I’ve ever done and I felt that strength in the race. I ran almost the entire race alone, which kind of kept me running within myself. I was building good momentum through the last third of the race, catching girls and getting excited. So when I got to the home stretch and saw I could place 2nd, it gave me the motivation to dig deep to the finish. I’m so thankful I was able to do something inspiring, as it has been a difficult year with the pandemic, and more than anything I wanted my race to inspire people at this time where they are lacking motivation without races.
- 3. You have a touching family story of adopting four young Ethiopian sisters. How do you juggle it all, from being a mum and a wife to a professional athlete as well as making time for yourself?
It’s a difficult juggle and something I think about and dialogue about with my husband often to make sure I’m not neglecting anything. My life definitely looks different than before kids and I can’t compare my lifestyle now to back then or to my competitors. Being a mom takes a lot of energy, and at times I have little meltdowns from trying to do it all. I just keep reminding myself I’ve been able to improve every year since becoming a mom, so even if I can’t be dialled in and resting all the time, I can still achieve my goals. It helps that I can share the duties with my husband, we make a good team. And our kids are very much behind me in my career and are excited for me to travel to races, even if it means being gone for a little while.
- 4. What has this experience taught you and how has it made you a better runner?
Being a mom isn’t a performance enhancing decision. It’s difficult and a drain on your energy. But it’s also rewarding. I’ve seen the value of getting to model to my kids so many qualities I hope to instil in them by inviting them into the journey with me, showing them how I pick myself back up after failures, the value of hard work and perseverance, all the character qualities that running teaches us. This last year they saw me go through the biggest disappointment of my career, not making the Olympic marathon team, followed by all my races being cancelled due to Covid-19, but they saw me motivate myself every day amidst the disappointment and uncertainty, and in the end have the two best races of my career. Kids learn more through example than words, and that motivates me to model to them what a strong woman looks like.
- 5. We are extremely excited to welcome you to our event… Have you ever been to the United Arab Emirates or the region? What are your expectations and/or perceptions?
I’m very excited to compete in the United Arab Emirates for the first time! The Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon has been on my bucket list and can’t wait to experience it. I have been to Dubai for a very brief period enroute to Ethiopia, and can’t wait to see more of the area. I had a very fun stay that time and go to experience some of the grandeous buildings and delicious Arab food I’d heard a lot about.
- 6. What is your goal for the 2021 Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon?
My goal is to run my personal best in the half marathon. It’s an ambitious goal, as I will be only 8 weeks after my marathon at the Marathon Project, but I’m hoping all the marathon work I put in in 2020 will still be in there, and that the strong field will pull me along to get the most out of myself.
‘TOP 10 WITH SARA HALL’
FULL NAME: Sara Hall
HALF MARATHON PB: 1:08:08
TARGET TIME FOR #RAKHALF2021: 1:07:15
RUNNING SHOE MAKE AND MODEL: ASICS
TEAM/CLUB (IF APPLICABLE): ASICS
- 1. Favourite type of training: 16 mile tempo runs
- 2. Top pump-up song: “So High” by Hopex
- 3. If I wasn’t a professional runner I’d be an international aid worker in East Africa
- 4. Biggest vice: Exploring a city when I travel there for a race
- 5. Currently looking forward to… Going for my first Olympic team on the track this Spring
- 6. Best running advice I have ever received: Don’t be greedy (in training)
- 7. Career highlight: 2nd at the 2020 London Marathon
- 8. Career lowlight: Not making the 2021 Olympic Team in the Marathon
- 9. Top tip for newbies: Get over the hump – the more you run, the easier it gets and the more enjoyable it is
- 10. Favourite pre-race meal: UCAN shake with protein