Sometimes when Ryan Hall looks in the mirror he still gets a little surprised. He’s no longer the 140-pound runner who five years ago produced the fastest marathon ever by an American.
Since Hall and his wife, Sara, adopted four Ethiopian girls last fall, family pictures throughout his house have also changed and taken over his home in Redding, Calif. In many of those framed photos, Hall is still quite lean from his marathon training. A Sports Illustrated photo of him running in front of the Eastern Sierra mountains ahead of the 2008 Olympics accurately depicts his physique from that era.
“I’m still tripping out when I see pictures of myself from when I was running,” Hall says with a laugh. “I think, ‘Who is that guy?’ I don’t look anything like that anymore.”
Hall is now committed to the gym, and he was doing toe raises in the weight room when he received a text from his friend Matthew Barnett, a pastor at the Dream Center (a volunteer-driven organization that aims to help gang members, drug addicts, orphans and others in need in the Los Angeles area), about a challenge. At the time, Hall had only been running about 30 minutes at a time, three days a week.
“After I stopped running, I had zero desire to go run,” Hall says. “I kind of lost all that joy of running.”
The text was about the possibility of running seven marathons in seven days on the seven continents. Something came over Hall when he read it and he texted back, “That sounds epic.”
Next January, Hall will embark on that challenge in order to raise support and awareness for the Dream Center, a place where he has done public speaking events before. The tentative race schedule will start in Antarctica and take him to Recife, Marrakech, Athens, India, Australia and then San Francisco or Los Angeles.
“Sara and I are passionate about issues related to poverty and empowering people out of those situations,“ Hall says. “Knowing this challenge was presented for those reasons and the epic component of it, I thought this was amazing. The idea of it gripped me and gave me a desire to run again.”