This Sunday is the Philadelphia Marathon and one of the biggest names on the entry list is US Olympian Marielle Hall, who is making her debut at the half distance. Now training under coach Kurt Benninger in Rhode Island, Hall, who has personal bests of 15:02 and 31:05, has begun to find her form in the Ocean State. After strong showings at the B.A.A. 10k and Beach to Beacon, her last race out was an impressive third-place finish at the Falmouth Road Race. I caught up with her ahead of this weekend’s action in Philly:
THE LAP COUNT: The farthest you’ve ever raced is a 15k so this isn’t too much longer. Are you feeling at all intimidated by the distance?
MARIELLE HALL: I definitely feel intimidated by it, but I think I’m appropriately intimidated. I’m excited. I’m prepared for it to be hard around 8 to 10 miles. But the longer you go up in distance, the less likely you are to test that feeling in practice.
THE LAP COUNT: Why did you decide to make this debut in Philadelphia?
MARIELLE HALL: Philly sports are on top right now and I want to be a part of that! I was choosing between Boston or Philly this fall. Ultimately Philly is a little bit easier of a course to be in control. This way I can focus on running the distance and competing with people, and taking out one variable.
THE LAP COUNT: Have things been going well this fall since I last saw you in Falmouth?
MARIELLE HALL: I have been slowly reintroducing the long runs and mileage. In the summer, I was mostly just trying to focus on the workouts. We felt like some of those things were contributing to breaking down and spiraling back into overtraining or mechanically just being off. It feels like I am now in more of a “normal training” period.
THE LAP COUNT: How do you personally deal with three months of no racing? Some professional runners love the process of metaphorically going into the woods, but others just itch to race.
MARIELLE HALL: I’m definitely getting to a place where you almost become more scared of everything. I think the longer you wait the more excitement builds. And you just feel like a cannon when you get to race because there is so much pent-up energy. But I feel like before I was going through so many ups and downs in training, and I just was not able to understand what workouts or fitness equated to. Racing became more intimidating, versus how I want it to be, which is using it as a marker.
I see success as competing more consistently. Molly [Huddle] told me one of the nice things about this time of year on the east coast is you can do check-ins at races without having to travel across the country. It’s easy to jump into a road race to see how things are moving along or just to get your feet wet competing.
THE LAP COUNT: I still think of you as a middle-distance runner sometimes, but clearly, you are not just that. Is there some aspect of training that you have always thrived at that would have indicated your success as you’ve moved up in your career?
MARIELLE HALL: Initially, running from high school to college was just about getting a scholarship. The goal was really centered around my education. What event I raced was more of a reflection of where I was in my progression of how much I was running and what I was doing in workouts.
I feel like our head coach and the people around me recognized that if I put in more time and consistent work in, I’d be able to do the longer stuff. That stuck with me for a long time – to not fall in love with any particular distance, but be open to wherever the best opportunity to compete is.
I think for most people your event is how you identify yourself and if you think you’re a miler then you’re going to stick with it and have pride in that. And I try to focus on progression and potential. If you get to the point of being a professional athlete, then everyone can pretty much do anything – it’s just a matter of where you choose to focus.
THE LAP COUNT: That’s good wisdom right there! Now that you are back in the northeast, what’s a day in your life look like?
MARIELLE HALL: I’ve had some things going on injury-wise this past year, and that, combined with the regular routine of running, it takes up a lot of time. But I have been working on starting a non-profit to create more resources for Black people in endurance sports. I’m often asked why I think there isn’t more participation in long distance running and I have been reflecting on my experience to hopefully improve that representation. It’s still in the early stages, but it’s hopefully coming soon!
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