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Ryan Hall
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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.”

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Ryan Hall runs 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days

Ryan Hall
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Ryan Hall‘s elite marathon career ended after a series of withdrawals and DNFs, which made his accomplishment this past week all the more impressive.

Hall, the fastest American ever over 26.2 miles, completed a marathon in Antarctica on Monday (with a wind chill falling to minus-22 degrees Farenheit, according to organizers).

The next day, he ran a marathon in Chile. The next day, he ran a marathon in Miami. Then in Madrid. Then Morocco. Then Dubai. Finally, on the seventh day, in Sydney.

Hall was one of 22 men and nine women to complete the World Marathon Challenge — an annual event starting in 2015 composed of seven marathons on seven continents in seven days.

Michael Wardian had the fastest average time — 2:45:56 per marathon. Hall, a two-time Olympian, averaged 3:39:36 for fifth place. Hall’s average time took a big hit in Sydney, where he clocked 5:15:34 on Sunday.

Hall said Sydney marked his final marathon. He said he started that race at about 1:30 a.m. local time and slowed to a walk in the final miles.

“Just my hips on fire,” Hall said on Instagram, filming as he covered the course. “My legs are just gone completely. So I’m just going to enjoy this last 42km I’ll ever do. I was thinking, it’s very fitting, actually, to have a rough day, just because that’s how my career went. High highs and low lows. That’s what happens when you dream big, train hard and give it everything.”

MORE: Boston Marathon field adds world-record holder

U.S. Olympic marathon runner Ryan Hall retires

Ryan Hall
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Ryan Hall, the fastest American marathon runner of all time, has retired from the sport at age 33, making the announcement four weeks before the U.S. Olympic marathon trials.

Hall, who has finished one marathon since the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials and struggled with health issues, is retiring 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.

“Up to this point, I always believed my best races were still ahead of me,” Hall said, according to the report. “I’ve explored every issue to get back to the level I’ve been at, and my body is not responding. I realized that it was time to stop striving, to finally be satisfied and decide ‘mission accomplished.”

Hall’s career highlight came at the 2011 Boston Marathon, where he clocked 2 hours, 4 minutes, 58 seconds, for the fastest 26.2 miles ever by an American. That fourth-place finish was not an American record though, as the Boston course is not record-eligible.

Since the 2012 trials, Hall dropped out of the London Olympic marathon with a hamstring injury. He withdrew before the starts of the 2012 New York City Marathon (eventually canceled), 2013 Boston Marathon and 2013 New York City Marathon, also citing injuries.

He finally started and finished a marathon at Boston 2014, but in an uninspiring 2:17:50, and then dropped out during the 2015 Los Angeles Marathon on March 15.

Hall also placed 10th at the Beijing Olympics, after winning the U.S. Olympic trials.

“I’ve failed over and over and over again throughout my career,” Hall said, according to the report. “I know what it’s like to fail at the biggest stage, like the Olympics. It’s a bummer, I don’t want to go through it, but I’m not afraid of it. And if you’re not afraid to fail, you’re not afraid to run against the best guys, and you’re not afraid to lose. I have so many failures throughout my career. But I needed them to have the success.”

The top favorites to make the U.S. Olympic team by finishing in the top three at the trials on Feb. 13 (live on NBC Sports) are three-time Olympians Meb Keflezighi and Dathan Ritzenhein.

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