Ryan Hall
Courtesy Ryan Hall

Ryan Hall says 7 marathons in 7 days gave him ‘sense of closure’

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Ryan Hall couldn’t walk without limping when he disembarked his airplane in Sydney last weekend. That’s when he knew he was in for the hardest marathon of his life Sunday.

Hall completed the World Marathon Challenge — seven marathons on seven continents in seven days — by clocking 5 hours, 15 minutes, 34 seconds in Sydney. He run/walked the entire marathon in Australia and then left his shoes at the finish line, signifying the final 26.2-mile race of his career.

As Hall waited in the Sydney airport for his flight home Tuesday, he couldn’t help but think of his first long run at age 13 — 15 miles around Big Bear Lake at 7,000 feet above sea level in California. In basketball shoes.

That outing sparked a career that included two Olympics and the fastest marathon recorded by an American — 2:04:58 at the 2011 Boston Marathon.

“So to end it with another epic running adventure, going around the world running seven marathons in seven days, just seemed like very fitting,” Hall said in a phone interview from Sydney. “It kind of gave me a nice sense of closure, which I think I was still looking for. It was kind of weird of how my body fell apart, and I retired. I never had the opportunity to have a farewell race. I felt like this week was that for me. It was actually an emotional moment for me walking away from my shoes on the finish line.”

Hall, 34, announced his retirement from elite marathon running in January 2016. Before that, he had finished one marathon since finishing second at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

He quit at an early age for a marathoner due to “chronically low testosterone levels and fatigue so extreme … he can barely log 12 easy miles a week,” according to The New York Times.

He became engrossed in weightlifting last year, reaching 177 pounds by the time he toed the line for his first of seven marathons in Antarctica last week. That’s about 50 pounds heavier than his elite racing weight. Hall’s longest training run in the previous four months was eight miles.

“I didn’t even know I could finish,” he said, calling it a coin flip going in. “I was thrilled I made it through at all.”

The seven marathons were obviously quite different than anything Hall had previously experienced. He ran alone for most of the races (only 22 men were able to complete the seven-day gauntlet). He ran races with headphones for the first time, with varied playlists, from electric dance to church worship.

And he ate like never before. Some 16 cookies in Morocco, an estimated 45 Muscle Milk bars in a week and the coup de grâce, six Krispy Kreme doughnuts during that agonizing Sydney limpthrough. Hall can now relate to those who run five-hour marathons (“Way harder than running 2:04,” he insists).

“Probably the ugliest marathon ever run, but I made it,” said Hall, who still lost five pounds overall. “I was thinking, too, I probably set a world record for biggest differential between your fastest marathon and your slowest marathon.”

Hall said the biggest challenge was sleep deprivation. With so much flying from country to country, he only spent two nights in a hotel and averaged a few hours of sleep per night.

Old injuries popped up, such as the right hip pain that first struck at the 2009 New York City Marathon. And the right hamstring tightness that forced him out of the 2012 Olympics. It still throbs when he sits for an extended period.

Hall said he still hopes to run adventure races, but his focus is the weight room. He’s close to reaching a goal of 300 pounds in the dead lift, squat and bench press.

The most special moment of the previous week was laying his shoes at the Sydney finish, a symbolic act of retirement common in weightlifting and wrestling.

“That’s just how I always pictured my career ending in running,” Hall said. “The way things happened [as an elite], I didn’t get a chance to do that, so that was really cool for me to end my career on my terms the way I wanted it to end.”

MORE: Olympian ends longest running streak in history

Coco Gauff upsets 9th seed to start French Open

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Coco Gauff notched yet another impressive Grand Slam match win, taking out ninth seed Jo Konta in her French Open main draw debut on Sunday.

Gauff, a 16-year-old American, upset the Brit Konta, a 2019 French Open semifinalist, 6-3, 6-3 on the first day of play at Roland Garros despite 12 double faults. Konta had 41 unforced errors to 22 winners.

“Every match is a great win,” said Gauff, the youngest player in either singles draw. “I don’t really take anything for granted because I’m just happy to be playing. I don’t think maybe winning Slams, matches at Slams is something I’m used to. Especially, this is my first main draw Roland Garros. When I’m on the court. I can act like I’m used to it. When I’m off the court, I’m just happy to be here.”

The clay-court Slam was postponed from May due to the coronavirus pandemic, is being held with damp temperatures in the 50s and has limited spectators to 1,000 per day.

“I’m pretty sure this is my first ever pro tournament, maybe even tournament in general, playing in weather like this,” said Gauff, noting she warmed up for 20 minutes before going on court so she could walk in with a sweat.

Gauff, the 2018 French Open junior champion, gets Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan in the second round after playing a match in leggings for the first time in about six years.

She’s coming off an impressive last year-plus, reaching the fourth round at the most recent Wimbledon and Australian Open. In between, she became the youngest WTA tournament champion since 2004. She recorded wins over Venus Williams and Naomi Osaka.

Gauff will bid over the next nine months to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team outright by being among the top four Americans in WTA rankings after the 2021 French Open. Therefore, her result at this French Open will not count toward Olympic qualifying.

She is currently ranked 51st overall and eighth among Americans.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Earlier Sunday, Williams finished her 2020 with a third first-round loss in as many Grand Slam tournaments — 6-4, 6-4 to Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

With the WTA’s autumn Asian swing canceled, Williams said she won’t play before next season starts in Australia.

Williams, 40 years old and ranked 76th, will need a scintillating start to 2021 to make the U.S. Olympic team in singles. She is currently the 14th-highest-ranked American. If she doesn’t make it in singles, Williams (or Gauff) could be chosen as a doubles-only player for the Tokyo Games.

Top seed Simona Halep took the last 10 games of her 6-4, 6-0 win over Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo. Halep, who is on a 15-match win streak dating to February, could play Gauff in the quarterfinals.

On the men’s side, Stan Wawrinka swept Andy Murray 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 in a battle of three-time major champions and a rematch of their life-changing 2017 semifinal in Paris.

“I need to have a long, hard think about it,” Murray said. “I don’t feel like the conditions are an excuse for it.”

It marked Murray’s first match on clay since that semi, won by Wawrinka in five sets. After that match three years ago, Wawrinka underwent two knee surgeries and Murray had two hip surgeries. Neither has made a Grand Slam semifinal since, and Murray nearly retired due to hip problems.

U.S. men went 3-0 on Sunday after winning one match total at the 2019 French Open.

The most notable victor: Sebastian Korda, the 20-year-old son of Czech 1998 Australian Open winner Petr Korda and brother of Nelly Korda, the world’s second-ranked female golfer.

Korda beat Italian veteran Andreas Seppi 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to become the youngest U.S. man to win a French Open main-draw match since 18-year-old Andy Roddick defeated Michael Chang in 2001.

Korda, after his first tour-level win, gets John Isner in the second round.

Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, each trying to tie Grand Slam singles titles records, play first-round matches on Monday.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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Julian Alaphilippe wins world road race title with late attack

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Julian Alaphilippe became the first Frenchman to win a road cycling world title in 23 years, attacking late and holding on to prevail by 24 seconds in Imola, Italy, on Sunday.

Alaphilippe, who wore the Tour de France yellow jersey for 16 stages between the last two years, went clear from a star-filled group at the top of the last climb with about eight miles left of a 160-mile day.

“It was a dream of my career, you know,” said Alaphilippe, whose best previous worlds finish was eighth. “I came here with, for sure, a lot of ambition. It’s just a dream day for me.”

Belgian Wout van Aert took silver, followed by Swiss Marc Hirschi in a five-man bunch sprint for the last two medals. Van Aert also earned silver in the time trial on Friday.

Slovenian Primoz Roglic, who was second in the Tour de France, finished sixth in the same time as the silver and bronze medalists after more than six and a half hours of racing.

The top American was Sepp Kuss in 52nd place, 12:35 behind.

Full results are here.

The last Frenchmen to win world titles were Laurent Brochard (road race) and Laurent Jalabert (time trial) in 1997.

Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, who won the Tour de France last Sunday, attacked with 26 miles left. He led by as much as 25 seconds before being reeled back in with about 13 miles to go.

The cycling season continues with the last two Grand Tours, each starting later than normal due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Giro d’Italia begins Oct. 3, and the Vuelta a Espana starts Oct. 20, before the Giro finishes.

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MORE: A more equal future for women’s cycling? Lizzie Deignan has high hopes