Elite runner Sara Hall, a two-time world team USA member at the World Indoor Track and Field Championships, won’t be in competitive mode when she heads to ZOOMA Great Lakes. The 29-year-old from Flagstaff, Arizona is hoping to run with her 57-year-old mother and newish runner, Karen Bai, and soak up the unique vibes of the all-women’s race. We caught up with both of them recently.
ZOOMA: You helped your mom train for the Chicago Marathon. Have you helped her train for ZOOMA?
Sara: I haven’t written her a daily training plan like I have in the past, but she told me about the details of the online plan she was doing, and I assured her it would prepare her well.
I offer her advice though. The other day she called me after a bad long run; her stomach was hurting a lot. We walked through the day before and day of the run and I pointed out certain things that probably went into her not feeling good on the run. Running has been a lifestyle for me for the last 16 years so sometimes things that are obvious to me are new to her; I forget that she is new to living a runner’s lifestyle!
ZOOMA: Did you think, as you were supporting Sara in her running career, that you would ever be crossing finish lines yourself?
Karen: Never! I loved cheering her on in her races and running around the cross-county courses, but I never imagined myself actually entering a race!
ZOOMA: Has seeing your mom turn into a runner given you new insight into your own running?
Sara: It’s really helped me to see how people who aren’t elite competitive runners experience the sport. I’ve been immersed in the elite running side for so long that I’ve never known what it was like to come into the sport as a middle-aged person, or fit it in around a full-time job. I often watch the 4- or 5-hour marathoners when I’m at one of Ryan’s [Ryan Hall, her husband] races and wonder what running looks like for them. And now, with my mom, I’ve gotten to see first-hand what it’s like,; I’ve seen all the classic first-timer concerns, mistakes, as well as the exhilaration of finishing their first race.
It’s been amazing for me to see how much we can still relate despite approaching the sport from very different perspectives. I smile inside when my mom is getting uptight if we are somewhere where she’s not sure she can get in a good run, or having to take an unexpected day off. It’s just like me!
ZOOMA: When did you catch the running bug? Why do you think you caught it?
Karen: Three years ago, when I was in my early 50’s, I felt like I was becoming “a frumpy 50”! I talked to Sara and she wrote me a training plan for a local 10K. I was so scared! I was afraid I would come in last! I remember turning around a lot during the race to see if I was in last place!
Sara and Ryan came out to cheer me on, and Sara actually ran next to me for part of the race. I’m not fast like Sara, but I persevere and try hard every time I’m out there. That’s one of the best things about running: your success is not dependent upon your place in the race, but how you feel about your own effort on that day.
ZOOMA: What’s next on your race schedule after ZOOMA?
Sara: Right now I’m in the one “off-season” period of the year. I will likely have races every month from October and until next September, so I savor this period of taking a few weeks off, building back my base, and focusing on other areas of life. After ZOOMA Great Lakes I’m hoping to do a 5k in November, and possibly something longer than I’ve ever done before in the winter.
Karen: Depending on where we are for Thanksgiving, I like to do a Turkey Trot and I always do the Resolution Run 5K on New Year’s Day to start the year off right
ZOOMA: What are your goal(s) for the ZOOMA?
Sara: My original goal was to challenge myself to see how fast I could run the half marathon. I wanted to get a benchmark for how my fitness was coming along from my fall training. But unfortunately I tripped on a run recently and sliced open my knee on a rock. I fell so hard I got a really small fracture in the bone marrow. After I got stitched up, it turned out a rock had gotten stuck in my knee. I had to have surgery to remove that, and am taking time off to let my knee heal. So hopefully I will be back running easy by race day, but if I’m not able to run, I’ll definitely take part in the race in some capacity and be out there supporting!
Karen: I am so excited to be running my first real race with Sara! I plan to take in the beauty of the area and run through the hills triumphantly without stopping!
ZOOMA: What are three words that describe your running?
Sara: Persistent, joyful, explorative!
Karen: Slow, determined, and full of joy! Ryan entitled his book Running With Joy, and I think that’s something we all can do, no matter how slow or fast we are!