I have known Michael since he was 8 years old when he was a hot prospect in the motocross world. His career was on the right track, he was winning titles, getting big contracts and worked his ass off for all of it. Going into his rookie season Michael was plagued with some big injuries and never really found the confidence he once had. After two years as a pro he decided to step away from the sport that made him who he was and start over. He had some normal 8-5 jobs where he would continue to do what he did racing and that is be his best. He was climbing the ladder at his employer when his Mom was diagnosed with Cancer. Michael and his Family would soon lose his Mom of cancer at a very young age. Michael’s family is extremely tight, and one could only imagine what he went through losing his Mom. This is when I noticed that Michael started finding this passion for running. Michael wasn’t just running he was running fast and long. Building PNG it has been a goal of mine to be able to provide a product that can support athletes to help accomplish their goals. In the next couple paragraphs you will read about Michael Hall’s first Marathon and how he pushed himself to accomplish a goal he set out for himself. Thanks for reading and coming along the journey that we are all on to get to the “Pinnacle” Mike Sleeter.
To start things off, my name is Michael Hall, I’m 28 years old, and this is my story of my journey to and through the 2019 Long Beach marathon. After watching this year’s Boston Marathon, I decided that I wanted to run a marathon. At that point in time, I had only raced a few 5k’s and similar distances. Running was always something that I loved doing and been passionate about for a number of years, but not something that I had a background in.
I was fortunate enough to connect with Fabrice Vuillemey, who was a track and cross-country coach for Murrieta Valley High School, and he was willing to coach me through the process. I can’t even explain how helpful he was and how grateful I am for his help. He put together a program for me that broke down every day for 18-weeks. This had everything from easy runs, tempo runs, hill repeats, race pace runs, track days, and long runs. I loved the structure of it all. It created accountability on my part that someone took the time to put it together for me, and that wasn’t something that I was going to take for granted.
The training began and it was difficult to say the least. The intensity was a lot higher than I anything I had ever done before, and at times I was wondering what I got myself into. It took about a month of really struggling before I started to feel like I was making some progress, and mentally that was huge. I started believing more and more in myself and what I was doing, and with that came more focus, which lead to better workouts. From that point the progression was steady.
At the halfway point of the program, I had my first real test to see where I was at, a half-marathon. Now, even though I was training for a marathon, I had never done a half before either, so I was a bit unsure of what to expect. I decided on the America’s Finest City Half in San Diego, it was a point-to-point course along San Diego Bay with an uphill finish into Balboa Park. The instructions for this race was go all out, so when the gun went off that’s what I did. I crossed the finish at 1:24:19, which was a 6:22 pace, and I was stoked. I had so many nerves before the start, and to have a race like that for my first half-marathon was a major confidence boost.
The weeks following the half were crunch time, the high mile weeks with the 20-mile runs. This was going to be where I really acclimate myself to the longer distances. This is where things started going south, as I started developing pain around my upper tibia. At first it was uncomfortable, but manageable, and I continued doing everything as I should. Eventually the pain progressed to the point where I couldn’t run. I missed almost 3 weeks of running. The race was in jeopardy. I was able to see Dr. Selstad, an ART (Active Relief Technique) specialist, who has worked with Olympic runners and triathletes, and in a few minutes, he determined the issue was with a muscle and tendon that runs from the calf to the arch of the foot. After multiple sessions with him I was able to begin running again about the three weeks before the race. After a week of easing back into it at first, I was able to log in some decent runs over the remaining couple weeks, but nothing like had done before the injury.
Going into the race I was experiencing all the pre-race nerves and jitters that I used to deal with growing up racing motocross. My expectations changed a little after my leg issue began, but my plan was still to go out there and run at a higher tempo, it’s what I spent all this time working for. I had a close friend with a little bit of racing experience help me formulate a race day plan. He even offered to ride a bicycle to different points of the course to hand me bottles and PNG gels to stay fueled up. It was a pretty good setup for a first-time marathoner.
Race day finally came, and it started early with a 6:00am start time. I was anxious and nervous and everything in between, I just needed to get the race started. After a small warm up I worked my way through the coral of runners and waited for the start. At 6:00am sharp the gun went off and down the road we went. Early on I was focused on settling in and not starting off to quick, I’ve made that mistake before in other races. It was tough to not get sucked into the excitement of it all, especially when there were people taking off like they’re running a 5k, not a marathon. I started off running the opening two miles at a low 7-minute pace and began dropping into my target pace after that. As the rhythm of the race started to take place, my body was feeling fresh, heartrate was at a good number, it felt like a Sunday run at the beach and the miles were flying by.
Around mile eight I began feeling pain in my left leg, it wasn’t too bad at this point, but it was the same type of pain that I dealt with during my training program. It didn’t affect me too much at this point, it was manageable, and I was able to continue at pace I had set. Over the next few miles the pain was getting worse, and my form and stride began to alter. With the change in stride, I started to feel a blister forming. I’ve dealt with blisters before and this one was in a strange area for me, it was in the arch. At this point it starts to become a battle, the pain in my leg was growing with each step, and now a blister to go with it. I still came through the half at 1:30:14, and my mindset was to try and maintain as long as I can, and deal with whatever comes out of it. For the next few miles my pace dropped but was still pretty steady. By mile 16 I really started slowing and at 20 I hit the wall. I went into survival mode, the time became irrelevant, and getting to the finish became the priority. All the overcompensating that I was doing led to cramping in the calf of my good leg, and there were times I had to walk. It was a difficult battle, run slow and my leg doesn’t hurt as much, but running slow was more painful on my blister, and while this was going on the calf on my other leg would start pulsating out of nowhere and almost bring me to the ground. By then I had accepted that the time wasn’t going to be what I had originally set out for, but there was no way I was stopping that far into it, I could still finish with a time that I could be proud of. Luckily, I had some good support out on the course helping to push me along to the finish, it would’ve been dark times without that.
Finally, after a fair amount of suffering and multiple deep conversations with myself, I crossed the finish in 3:39:18, which ended up being an 8:18 pace. It was slower than I set out to run, but it didn’t matter, the feeling was unbelievable. To me, it’s one of the most meaningful accomplishments I’ve ever experienced, not just the marathon, but entire process. It was a huge step for me personally to see this program through from start to finish, and even with some setbacks.
The most exciting part of it all is this was just the first one. I’m going to heal up, take the experience and knowledge I’ve gained from it, and do it all over again.