“It’s kind of like what you pay attention to grows. What you’re the most aware of—if you’re focused on an area where you’re not measuring up and you’re beating yourself up about that instead of seeing yourself a certain way—Ryan puts it well, where he’s like, ‘The first step in becoming a mentally tough runner is to believe you’re a mentally tough runner.’ It kind of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if you think, ‘I’m not tough.’ But the opposite is [that] you start by believing that, then the more you lean into that, and believe in that, it grows.”
Sara Hall is one of the best and most versatile distance runners in the United States. She’s won numerous national titles from the mile to the marathon and and she’s the sixth-fastest American female marathoner of all time after her 2:22:16, fifth-place finish at Berlin last fall. Sara is the wife of previous podcast guest, two-time Olympian, and American half-marathon record holder Ryan Hall, and the mom of four adopted Ethiopian girls: Hana, Mia, Jasmine, and Lilly.
This conversation covered a lot of ground and I think you’ll really take a lot away from it. Sara told me about growing up in Santa Rosa, California, and getting into running as a 13-year-old, she opened up about dropping out of the Olympic Trials Marathon earlier this year and what it’s been like bouncing back from that disappointment, and how she’s thinking about training and racing right now in the midst of a global pandemic.
We also talked about the biggest lessons the marathon has taught her over the years, her tendency to be hard on herself after bad races and workouts, and what she means when she calls herself a “high maintenance sleeper.” We also discussed how her relationship with her husband Ryan has evolved since he retired from the sport four years ago, how she’s talking to her daughters about the racial injustice issues we’re facing in the U.S., the role faith plays in her life, and a lot more.
“It was sort of like this coolness of everyone telling you [that] you can be awesome and you’re not aware of it yet, but you’re starting to believe it, you’re starting to follow in the steps of this path you think you’re destined to be on. And that—over and over—any movie with that theme, like goosebumps, I’m hooked. I remember watching an anime, Dragon Ball Z, growing up and I’m just like, ‘Man this guy just keeps getting stronger every time he trains. Holy moly, he’s doing things he never thought he could do.’ And honestly, once I discovered track after football I was like, ‘This is what I’ve been watching all those movies my entire life for.’ I think there’s something hidden deep inside of me that’s kind of special and it’s just a matter of time before it comes out. And I just loved that, and now I would say that’s transitioned to photography and directing. I feel there’s something special that I have to offer that is started and rooted in running and track and I’m really, really excited to see where I can take that skill, or habit, or blessing that I’ve been given and seeing what’s next for me.”
My guest this week is one of my favorite photographers and storytellers in the sport of running, David Bracetty.
David lives outside of Philadelphia and he’s done editorial work for publications like Runner’s World, Like The Wind, and Meter magazine. He’s also shot commercially for New Balance, Puma, adidas, Brooks, and other brands. What I love about David is his unique style and penchant for finding and telling the story that no one else seems to be paying attention to. David hustles hard—I’ve witnessed it myself firsthand—and it shows in the quality of his work.
There is a lot to this conversation. David’s got an interesting backstory and it was trip to dive into it with him In this episode. He told me about how his Puerto Rican upbringing influenced his worth ethic and creativity. We talked about how he got into running, the rocky road he followed with the sport through college, and learning not to let his self-worth get tied up into being a runner. David told me about his odd hobbies and interests as a kid, saving up to buy his first camera in high school, and why he’s always been someone who’s quick to say yes to things and then will figure it out on the backend. Finally, we discussed the biggest ways he’s evolved as a photographer and a creative, what his relationship with running looks like now, and also his latest project. It’s called the 4 Years Ago Project, and it’s an audiovisual experience featuring athletes who competed in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials talking about what they felt that day, what’s happened since, and where they are now.
The 4 Years Ago Project was entirely self-funded. If you’d like to support David’s work to help offset some of his costs, you can do so here.
Note: There will be a spread of select photos and commentary from Bracetty’s 4 Years Ago Project in the next issue of Like the Wind magazine, which will be published at the end of August. You can pre-order a copy of that issue here or start an annual subscription to LtW at this link. I’m a paying subscriber of LtW and it is far and away my favorite running magazine. It comes out four times a year and it’s chock full of amazing stories and beautiful imagery printed on sumptuous paper that you’ll want to keep, well, forever. Want to learn more about Like the Wind? Listen to my podcast conversation with co-founder and editor Simon Freeman from May of 2018 right here. (more…)
“Running to me represents freedom and I don’t want to just confine myself to running to numbers, like trying to run to specific mileage on a given day or just running to specific paces every day. There’s a freedom to it and a fluidity that I think is really, really important…Not every workout has to build toward something or target a specific energy system, especially right now where there are no races to build toward. For me, and what I’m trying to preach to my athletes, it’s like, look, you almost gotta think of running right now as more of an outlet than ever. Like sometimes you just need to remind yourself what made this pursuit fun in the first place.”
This week on the podcast you get to hear from me in the second Ask Mario Anything episode of 2020. I answered a number of listener questions about coaching, training, nutrition, making adjustments, my past struggles with disordered eating, and more. On the other side of the mic for this one is John Summerford, longtime producer of the morning shakeout podcast, and we kick this one off mid-conversation talking about the importance of consistency and “getting your reps in,” regardless of the pursuit. John is talking about playing music with his brother for the first time since quarantine started—the very same brother that plays drums for the theme music to this podcast.
Thank you to everyone who submitted questions and apologies for all the ones I wasn’t able to answer in this episode. Got a question for the next Ask Mario Episode? Send it to me here.
These past few months have been hard—like, really hard—and it doesn’t look to be getting much easier anytime soon. But in a lot of ways, the situation we find ourselves in right now isn’t much different than the circumstances we encounter during a tough race. Here’s some racing advice you can apply to the rest of your life (or vice versa): (more…)
“Who do we get to see? And therefore, who do we get to believe in? Not only to understand people better, but I think to understand for younger kids especially how they get to travel through the world and what their potential could be. It’s a lot harder to imagine yourself being something if you’ve never seen anyone that looks like you doing it. And we internalize these images of who gets to be a surfer and who doesn’t, or who gets to be a marathoner and who doesn’t, or who gets to be, you know, a politician, and who doesn’t. So yeah, that’s what I mean when I say representation.”
Faith E. Briggs is a runner, documentary filmmaker, and advocate currently based in Portland, Oregon, and her work focuses on diversity and representation in the media and outdoors. Her latest film, This Land, is a story about land access told through a journey of inclusion and empowerment, where she and a few other runners ran 150 miles through three U.S. National Monuments and assess what is at stake if previously protected lands are reduced and if the public is largely unaware about it.
I had been looking forward to this conversation for a while and it did not disappoint. We talked about the mix of excitement and trepidation Faith is feeling midway through 2020, working through some of the confusion she’s been experiencing, and why representation in the media is more important now than ever before. She also told me about the the appeal of mountains, trails, and ultras to someone who ran the 400m in college, redefining “conservationist,” her love of words, language, and storytelling, and a lot more.