INDIANAPOLIS - As the Flora London Marathon marks the opening race of the 2008 World Marathon Majors on Sunday, fans of rising U.S. marathon star Ryan Hall (Big Bear Lake, Calif.) will be watching with great anticipation as he attempts to become only the third American to win the race after Dick Beardsley and Khalid Khannouchi.
At 25, Hall has built a wealth of marathon knowledge in his only two runs at the distance. His debut at the Flora London Marathon in 2007 saw him running with the leaders in the late stages of the race, eventually finishing seventh in an American debut record of 2:08:24. In November, Hall would go on to dominate the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in New York. Running an Olympic Trials record of 2:09:02 over a challenging course in Central Park, Hall cruised to the win by more than two minutes, the largest winning margin since the beginning of the Olympic Trials Marathon.
Despite a relatively short marathon resume, Hall has captured the attention of many of the world's best marathoners. "He is an athlete who can win a lot of things, win a lot of medals," said Olympic Marathon champion Stefano Baldini at Wednesday's press conference. "He is able to read the race and react. He's the future."
While Hall's ultimate goal is to win an Olympic Marathon medal in Beijing this August, the competitive field at London offers him the opportunity to learn more about racing a marathon and his likely competitors in Beijing. "This is the race that gets me the most excited out of all the races during the year," said Hall from a teleconference in London yesterday. "Obviously, the field, getting a good look at practicing against racing the marathoners in the world will be a huge learning experience for me on Sunday and one that will help me a lot in Beijing. So yeah, when you look at trying to get a medal, if you can do well in this race here, it really would go a long ways in preparing me for the Olympic Games."
Hall will be facing a pair of past Flora London champions on Sunday. Defending champion Martin Lel leads the field along with Felix Limo, the 2006 winner of London. The field also includes Luke Kibet, the IAAF World Marathon champion; Sammy Wanjiru the IAAF World Half Marathon champion; and Baldini, the Olympic champion.
I think we're going to see a fantastic performance from him," says race Director Dave Bedford of Hall. "It's not going to be an easy one to win, but then I don't think anyone's ever had an easy London, and it's my delight to welcome Ryan back to London."
The Flora London Marathon will be available live and on-demand this Sunday at WCSN.com. Viewers in the U.S. and Canada can watch the free coverage beginning with the women's race at 4:00 am EST, followed by the men's race at 4:45 EST.