Probably one of the greatest races I have ever seen in person or on TV has been the 2007 Olympic Trials for the Men’s Marathon in New York City. The event was on November 3rd on a Saturday the day before the New York City Marathon which was the following day on Sunday. The city had a buzz for the marathon alone and to add to the excitement of the trials was unlike most I had ever seen New York on race weekend. The 100 or so runners started over at the Rockefeller Center and eventually made their way into Times Square and up 7th ave to Central Park where they would do a 3 lap loop in the park. I was eagerly anticipating the race to see if Ryan Hall could pull off a victory and head to Beijing. I was on 7th ave early that morning just a bit North of Times Square and South of Central Park. As the runners started making their way towards me the street on 7th ave was electric. They were all in a pack and it hit me that this was it, whoever finished top three goes to the Olympics. As soon as they passed me I ran into Central Park and stood close by the Team Hansen camp who was watching and tracking their runners in the race. Brian Sell who would qualify and come in third was one of their runners. As they approached for their first loop, there were only about 8 or 9 runners in the lead pack. It was pretty clear the top runners like Meb, Dan Browne, Dathan Ritzenheim and Hall were going to fight for this race. With such talent and the unpredictable mishaps from a marathon it was pretty clear they would all stay together for as long as they could and try to break each other in the last 2-3 miles. So it was to everyone’s astonishment when the pack came around for the second time and Ryan Hall is in full gear running by himself with no runner in sight. As he approached me he had this look in his eye I have never seen in him before. Such focus and determination, you could just tell at that moment he wasn’t going to be beat that day. What seemed like forever but was really only about 2 minutes the rest of the pack came in following. At this point the crowds were crazy and the energy was intense. Ryan Hall clearly took a huge risk and took off from the pack. The real question everyone was wondering whether he had what it took to keep the lead. Did he break too soon? Did he let his adrenaline take over? Was this the right move? All these questions were in the air as everyone waited for the last run in. Basically we were about to find out as the top three runners were going to the Olympics. As the motorcade approached the place was bonkers and sure enough Ryan Hall was coming in by himself with his hands in the air. His move had paid off and he was so excited and feeding off of the crowds which were in a frenzy. Behind him were Dathan Ritzenhein and Brian Sell. Ryan Hall came in at 2:09:02 and set an American record with the fastest Olympic trial ever. He also set the record for the fastest half marathon in Central Park at 1:02:45. Ryan Hall set himself as the most exciting marathon runners with that move in the race. To put it on the line and do the unthinkable by taking off was gutsy and remarkable. Unfortunately later that day I received a call from Rod Dixon, the 83 New York City marathon winner, and he informed me at mile 5 Ryan Shay, another great runner in the race that day had collapsed in front of the boat house in the park and died. I remember being on 42nd at the Library and just stopped when he told me the news. It was a bitter-sweet day with the sad news. Apparently he had an enlarged heart and suffered a heart attack. To this day I can still see Ryan Hall’s look in his face when he passed me. I will never for get that look and that day. Knowing the training Hall puts in I think it inspired me to always put your work in for those moments when you want it most. An amazing day in New York and again, just another New York minute.
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Posted by ryanmichaelruiz on December 25, 2011