It was the sound of 10,000 big ones flying by, just out of reach.
Sara (Bei) Hall was focused on her nearest female competitor, Natosha Rogers. The two had duked it out over the 10-mile course from Minneapolis to St. Paul, Minnesota on Sunday and Hall had her hands full with Rogers. But in the equalizer format of USA Track and Field’s 10-mile national championship, the first athlete to cross the line — man or woman — wins a $10,000 bonus.
The women were given a 6-minute, 18-second head start, a time based on previous top performances.
But Hall, a 2001 Montgomery grad who was a high school All-American and seven-time All-American at Stanford, was so focused on her duel with Rogers that she didn’t know the men were closing fast. Hall, 34, never heard them coming.
“I wasn’t even thinking of the guys,” she said. “I was totally in the zone of trying to win my race. All of a sudden I hear this ‘Whoosh.’ ”
Hall finished in 53:43 – 1.2 seconds behind the overall winner, Shadrack Kipchirchir, who grabbed the bonus.
If she was bummed to lose out on $10,000 by a gnat’s whisker, she didn’t show it.
“I think it’s fun,” she said of the format. “It really made for the most exciting finish it could be in the race.”
No, she wasn’t $10,000 richer, but she was the 2017 USATF 10-mile national women’s champion. And she did earn a big confidence boost heading into the Frankfurt Marathon later this month in her quest to ready herself for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“Any time I toe the line, I want to be competitive,” she said. “My goal was to win the race.”
Better than that, though, is the fact that Hall believes she is running as well as she ever has. That is saying something, considering she is among the all-time great prep runners to ever come out of this area — who went on to shine at Stanford before becoming the 2012 national cross country champion, and Pan American Games gold medalist in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 2011.
Despite her stacked resume, Hall’s results are a bit of a surprise to the runner herself. Seems she didn’t think she’d still be getting after it as a 34-year-old mom of four.
“I’m enjoying running as much as I ever have,” she said. “I didn’t expect to be doing this at this point in my life with kids and everything. I’m just taking it one year at a time and seeing where my passion is.”
So far, Hall’s passion is the marathon — a race she is relatively new to, having just completed her first 26.2-mile race in March of 2015.
She has lopped some serious time off of her marathon’s bests. She ran a personal best of 2:28:26 in Tokyo in February. That was a significant chunk of time from her prior best of 2:30:06 at the 2016 London Marathon.
“I feel like it suits me,” she said. “When I started doing marathons it was a pretty natural fit.”
“I really enjoy racing on the roads,” she said. “A track is the same wherever you go. But every city has a different feel to it.”