Sara Hall’s career is defined by incredible performances that also feel like painful missed opportunities.
She’s finished second in London, just missed an American marathon record by seconds, and set one in the half marathon, only to have it taken away a few months later.
And, of course, there are the eight Olympic Trials appearances, and zero Games.
On Saturday in Orlando, she scored perhaps her most bittersweet achievement yet: the American masters marathon record, while placing fifth and seeing a prime opportunity to finally make an Olympic squad slip away in the second half of the race.
Hall’s finishing time of 2:26:06 improved upon the previous record, set by Des Linden in the spring of 2023 at the Chicago Marathon. (Linden’s 2:27:35 was actually her qualifying time to get into the Trials; she finished 11th in Orlando.)
Hall ran a spirited race on a challenging and warm day. She positioned herself well early on, matching every move and looming in the lead pack deep into the race.
But ultimately she was broken in the final 10K. The heat became a legitimate factor, and the looped course around Orlando’s downtown course became a pressure cooker. Eventual winner Fiona O’Keeffe continued to push the pace, fracturing the lead group, leaving Hall and others reeling. There was an irony in a young, first-time marathoner “not knowing any better,” pushing the pace and making a field of experienced veterans of the distance pay the price.
In the end, Hall admirably hung, and fifth place is a respectable finish at the fastest Olympic Trials in history. But respectable doesn’t get you to Paris.
Hall is now at a crossroads in her career. She turned 40 in April, and Los Angeles is four long years away. And although many athletes are now running world-class times well into their 40s, no one has ever made an Olympic team at age 44.
Perhaps a silver lining—but maybe yet another bittersweet success—is that Hall is now free of the Olympic shackles once again, and can select the fall marathon of her choosing to lower her own American master’s record.