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Ryan Hall and Why I Quit Letsrun and You Should Too Part Two

I thought I had articulated my thoughts on the harsh critics and pessimistic nay-sayers of our sport in the previous post, but after watching LA unfold last week and, namely, the subsequent crucifixion of Ryan Hall for another DNF, I decided that I have more to add to the conversation. Er, more to add to the one-sided conversation.

I should start by saying everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, so all of my friends who I make an example of herein, I still heart you, I just disagree with you. :)

My boss and I made some bets (not monetary bets, so legal-by-employee-handbook style bets) the afternoon pre-LA. We were predicting our friend Brianne Nelson’s (feel special, Brie, you are a topic of the BRC back room. If that isn’t a claim to fame then I don’t know what is.) finishing time: winner gets a biscuit from Doug’s, our favorite diner next door (shameless plug, you’re welcome Doug). Our predictions were pretty close, but ultimately Taskmaster’s was closer.

Damn. I had my heart set on that biscuit.

Also we threw a couple other predictions into the ring, but they were not part of the Biscuit Bet. We picked the top-3 women (both of us way off on that one), a couple other individual finishing times, and I chose Ryan for the win on the American men’s side, and Taskmaster/Boss predicted a big DNF for him.

A small squabble ensued where I labeled him a nay-sayer (shun the non-believer! Shun!) and he labeled himself as realistic. Now, I realize that I am a full-time citizen of LaLa Land for the most part so I’m not saying that I am always realistic, I don’t deny it, but by God I’m a believer in setbacks that become comebacks and in the underdog! I still stand by what I said for the most part even though he was right. This time. But thankfully no biscuit was at stake here.

Anyway, Post-LA, my old temptation to scope out the Letsrun board arose again, but I didn’t, because I knew what it would be plastered with. Plus, I totally didn’t have to because most of my runner friends were bagging on him pretty much every chance they got given his string of DNF’s that came on the heels of his incredible Boston a few years ago. Apparently everyone expected great things from him, he didn’t deliver, and now we are all oh so disappointed and he should be thrown under the bus and written off as a flash-in-the-pan has-been.

Yes, half a dozen national titles, a sub 2:06 marathon PR, a couple American records, a Boston victory, some NCAA titles, and a couple Olympic teams. I probably missed some things. How very disappointing for us all.

“Ryan should start a drug rehab group to teach people how to quit!” Proclaimed one friend’s Facebook wall.

“Sports are about hard work, dedication and achieving goals, that’s NOT Ryan Hall’s philosophy!” Tweeted another pretty prominent Colorado runner.

I read the linked article for the aforementioned post from Tweety McTweeterson, but I failed to find where exactly Ryan implied that’s not what sport is about, but that’s beside the point I guess. Actually he said it’s about getting the most out of yourself without necessarily comparing yourself to anyone else, that the joy he gets from running is not dependent solely upon winning, and that just winning will never ultimately make you happy. Sounds like a pretty solid running and life philosophy to me, and you could replace “running” and “winning” with any number of other things, but anyway…

Maybe it’s just because I really like Ryan. He’s interesting and quirky, albeit occasionally a little out there, he’s got some personality and some different ideas and approaches and philosophies, and listening to him talk about running is not like watching paint dry, which is more than you can say about a lot of runners. Just saying. Plus I’m probably really biased because I love a good comeback/rising-from-the-ashes type story, and I think he’ll have one eventually. And if he doesn’t, that’s fine too.

Again, we’re all entitled to our own opinion, and opinions don’t equate to bad people. But what bugs me about this kind of stuff–Ryan being just one of many examples–is peoples’ bandwagon approach. If he popped another sub-2:10 next month, everyone who’s trashing him now would be back on board the Ryan Hall train. Not that it matters, but I’m pretty confident Ryan’s got more in the legs and that there are still great things to come for him, but even if there aren’t, he doesn’t have anything to prove to anyone and he doesn’t owe me or anyone else anything. Just because someone has great success at one point and we put them on a pedestal and we set a bar for them, it doesn’t make us as their fans entitled to more of their success.

Ultimately, it just really grinds my gears how quick we are to chalk up an exceptional talent as a failure because they did not live up to our expectations for them. It’s like, everyone just completely forgets all the things that he’s already done. It’s all well and good to have high hopes for someone’s success, but what business do any of us have thinking that we are, in a sense, essentially owed a performance by that person? Not a single person dragging him through the mud has, or ever will, come remotely close to achieving a fraction of the things he has. So shove it.

Not only that, but how can anyone assume that he himself is not bothered by having fallen short of what he’s done and what he probably expects for himself? Considering that running is his livelihood, I can’t imagine that he’s not. Not that I know diddly about the marathon, but how many sub-2:10’s can a person have in their legs in the first place? And why does anyone assume that his unfinished races were for any reasons other than completely valid ones?

Anyway, I’m going to put my soapbox away now, that’s just my opinion that no one asked for, and I’m just another opinion in the sea of the latest ones. My point is not necessarily that we shouldn’t be disappointed, but maybe we ought to be disappointed for him rather than in him.

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