Sara Hall kept picking off runners until the very end, chasing down Ruth Chepngetich in the final stretch of today’s race to finish second at the London Marathon in 2:22:01—a PR by 15 seconds. Brigid Kosgei won her second London in a row in 2:18:58.
Hall moved up steadily in the second half of the race. She went through halfway in 1:10:27 in ninth place. She moved into sixth place over the next 10 kilometers, then to fourth at 35K. At 40K, with only about a mile and a quarter to run, Hall was in third, 40 seconds behind Chepngetich. Hall, a former steeplechaser, kept pressing like she was in a track race, and sprinted past Chepngetich in the final 150 meters.
“I was just fighting the whole way, catching people,” Hall said after the race. “Seeing the world champion [Chepngetich] in the last lap, that definitely motivated me to give it my all. I’m still kind of in shock, to be honest.”
Hall, 37, is one of the country’s most prolific racers. Going into London, she told Runner’s World she had had a great buildup, and she was hoping for a PR and possibly a spot on the podium.
Due to the pandemic, however, she hadn’t had any tuneup races to test her fitness. Her only race was a five-person half marathon on a bike path near Eugene, Oregon, where she ran 1:08:18, a PR.
“Not having races along the way to rest for meant I just have been grinding away with only one rest week since early April, and I’ve never done that before,” she wrote in an email before Sunday’s race. “You don’t have the endorphins of buildup races to help you build momentum.
“It’s taken a lot of long-term vision, but where I’m at in my career right now, I’m highly motivated to keep mining out my potential, so that kept me going. I keep responding better to the work than I ever have, despite my age, so it makes me excited to keep building and seeing how far I can take this.”
Hall thrives on competition. In September 2019, she ran 2:22:16 for fifth place at the Berlin Marathon, putting her sixth on the U.S. list of fastest marathoners. Five weeks later, she lined up at the New York City Marathon but dropped out at mile 18.
In 2020, Hall ran what was then a personal best in the half marathon in Houston, 1:08:58. She appeared to be in fine form heading into the Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta and had the second-fastest qualifying time heading into the race. There, however, she lost contact with the leaders on the final loop of the hilly, four-lap course, and she dropped out of the race at 22 miles. “My heart will be broken from this one for a while,” she posted on Instagram.
“This is such a redemptive moment.”
But things certainly turned around for her on Sunday, becoming the first American to make the podium in London since Deena Kastor won the race in 2006 (also setting the American record).
“It was surreal,” Hall said. “My husband [Ryan Hall] was going nuts. I am so thankful he was able to be here. He was telling me how far back I was for the last couple laps. If I’m third and then second. I felt amazing out there.
“This is such a redemptive moment. I didn’t make our Olympic marathon team, and that was a massive disappointment, but God’s always redeemed it in my career, and this was my moment of redemption.”
Hall has been a force on the national scene for nearly two decades. She ran her first Olympic Trials in 2004, in the 5,000 meters, and has appeared in every Trials since, on the track or in the marathon or both.
This content was originally published here.