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The secret to Sara Hall’s longevity and success in running

Hall sprints to cross the finish line in second place at the 2020 London Marathon in October. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Last year was the most challenging stretch of Sara Hall’s running career. From being favored to make the Tokyo Olympic marathon team to dropping out at mile 22 of the U.S. Trials in Atlanta, Hall, then 37, wondered if she’d ever have another chance to redeem herself.

“Everything was canceled,” Hall says of the weeks following that disappointing race in February of 2020.

Overnight, the world shut down. With a global pandemic on the rise, Hall was left without any future races to erase the painful setback. “I really had to cultivate a love for the process,” she says. “I’ve always loved the grind of the hard work, but I had to just focus on today and enjoying today, instead of wondering if I’m ever going to use it towards a race goal.”

Fast forward eight pandemic months to a sunny December day in Chandler, Ariz., when the perfect opportunity for redemption finally presented itself.

Clocking a time of 2:20:32 at The Marathon Project, Hall raced her way into the record books to become the second-fastest marathoner in the U.S., nearly eclipsing Deena Kastor’s record set in 2006. With her gutsy first-place finish, Hall shaved almost 90 seconds off of her previous best of 2:22:01, which she ran just 11 weeks earlier at the London Marathon.

“I didn’t realize I had so much room to grow my aerobic capacity,” Hall says of her performance. “I kept trying longer distances and I kept having surprising success.”

But Hall’s success isn’t surprising. A seven-time Olympic Trials qualifier with ten U.S. titles from the mile to the marathon, Hall can both tackle speedier races on the track and thrive in much longer road races. A “jack-of-all-trades,” as she’s known among elite runners, Hall says one key element has allowed her to experiment with different distances — time.

Hall was a seven-time All-American and star at Stanford University. She credits her early coaches and teammates for helping her develop a healthy balance between training and nutrition. While many young runners struggle with the destructive cycle of under-fueling and overtraining, which often leads to severe burnout or bouts of career-ending injuries, the guidance Hall received at a young age has allowed her to stay healthy on and off the track.

Now, as a 38-year-old elite marathoner, fueling her body to support the intensity of every performance is vital to achieving longevity in her sport.

Hall says her top nutritional goal is to consume enough food to sustain each training session. In season, she regularly runs a full marathon on the weekends as part of her training. So, getting the proper fuel can make or break her workouts.

Hall also focuses on minimizing the sugar in her diet because of its inflammatory impact. Since becoming a marathoner, Hall believes her diet has become a lot “simpler,” centered on organic foods such as vegetables, starches like rice or pasta and grass-fed meats.

“Both really intense track training and longer marathon training generates a lot of inflammation,” Hall says. “The more you can counteract that with your diet, the better you can handle that training.”

The number one thing she says she gets asked at running events or expos is: “Sara, what do you eat before you run?”

The answer, she says, is UCAN. From fueling her fastest marathons to providing the perfect pre- or post-workout snack, UCAN is like a “nutritional insurance” that releases slowly, so Hall doesn’t feel depleted at the end of a 15-mile run.

“You need not only to fuel well to finish that effort, but you also need to fuel enough to recover quickly,” Hall says. “UCAN has been a great tool for that.”

As far as her favorites go, Hall says she enjoys the Cocoa Energy + Protein Powder and the Cherry Berry Almond Bar.

“It’s a game-changer, honestly,” says Dr. Cathy Yeckel, an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Yale School of Medicine and a nutritional consultant for UCAN. “It’s really a struggle to figure out, ‘How do I eat nutritionally and helpfully, but still fit in the training?’ The beauty of UCAN products is they completely take the guesswork out of it.

“There is so much potential just with having something that’s not going to throw your metabolism off.”

In January of 2021, Hall faced a different type of obstacle. She tested positive for COVID-19, forcing her to pump the breaks on her training. Along with her family, who was also sick, she recovered. The trouble, however, was the fatigue she experienced following the illness.

“I was set back by fatigue for months,” she says. “But I’ve learned how to pick myself back up and just take it day by day.”

Hall posted about her struggle with the virus on Instagram following the 10,000-meter race at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene this past July. She had competed in the trials hoping to complete her 17-year quest to make Team USA. In the end, Hall placed sixth.

“I didn’t make the team, but even to be in contention, there was a victory in that and how much I’ve overcome all year,” she says.

This month, Hall competed in the USATF 10 Mile Championships, hosted at the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in Washington, D.C. (and rescheduled from its usual April date because of COVID-19). Hall, the three-time defending champion in the race and favorite to win, crossed the line in sixth place. On Instagram, Hall wrote that it was a “rough one,” but she isn’t letting the disappointment distract her from the next challenge — the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 10.

“I’ve learned that I don’t need to take confidence from a race like that because I know how I’m training,” she says. “As far as looking ahead to Chicago, I know I’ve put in the work for the marathon. I’ve been focusing on that moment and what I’m doing in training is all pointing to that.”

Poised to kick off another standout marathon season, Hall is now vying to become the American marathon record-holder. This year’s Chicago Marathon will mark the long-awaited return of the event since it turned virtual during the coronavirus pandemic last year.

As for her future plans, Hall says she would never have guessed she’d still be running at the professional level right now. But as long as she continues to make improvements, she’s not going anywhere.

“I always want to compete because I love it. I’m a competitive person,” she says. “But I might transition to the trails or ultras — who knows?”

Brenley Goertzen is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @BrenleyGoertzen.

(Editor’s note: UCAN is a sponsor of Just Women’s Sports)

Clark, Martin Square Off in First Pro WNBA Matchup

Kate Martin #20 of the Las Vegas Aces and Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever look on during the game
Things looked a little different Saturday night as the former Iowa teammates went head-to-head in Las Vegas. (Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images)

Former Iowa teammates Caitlin Clark and Kate Martin shared the court once again on Saturday, this time as professionals.

It was Martin’s Aces that got the 99-80 win over Clark’s Fever in Las Vegas. The pair's former coaches Lisa Bluder, Jan Jensen, Jenni Fitzgerald, and Raina Harmon were all in attendance to watch their Hawkeyes — Clark, Martin, and former national player of the year Megan Gustafson — take the court.

"It’s super special. It’s cool for our program, cool for Lisa, for Coach Jan, for all of them," Clark said in a pregame press conference. "They’ve known me since I’ve been 13 years old and now I’m 22 getting to live out my dream and they’ve been a huge part of that and helping me get here and helping Megan and Kate to get here too. It’s a great moment for them and I’m sure they’re not complaining about a trip to Vegas."

As for her college teammate, Clark had nothing but good things to say ahead of the showdown. 

"I’m just really happy for her and everything Coach [Becky] Hammon says about her is so true," she said. "Every person that played at Iowa and was around her knows that to be true. She’s the ultimate teammate, ultimate person, ultimate leader."

In the end, Martin stole the show with 12 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes, while Clark amassed eight points, seven assists, and five rebounds over 29 minutes of playing time. 

"It was weird," Martin admitted after the game. "I'm not going to lie — just looking out on the court and seeing her in a different jersey than me, it was obviously different. But it's really fun. We're both living out our dreams right now."

The Aces next meet the fever on July 2nd at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Barcelona Beat Lyon to Win Back-to-Back Champions League Titles

Barcelona's Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas celebrating after beating Lyon at the 2024 Champions League final
Ballon d'Or winners Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas helped Barcelona to a second-straight UWCL title on Saturday. (Ramsey Cardy - Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images)

Barcelona was crowned champion of the Champions League on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Lyon in Bilbao.

Alexia "La Reina" Putellas, who recently re-signed with Barcelona, came off the bench to score the team's second goal. Fellow Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmatí provided the team’s first. After the game, defender Lucy Bronze said Putellas was nicknamed "the queen" for a reason.

"Alexia is the captain of the team and she's the queen of Barcelona for a reason,"  defender Lucy Bronze told DAZN. "She's got the quality to do that in the last minute of the Champions League final when we were up against it at the end and it just sealed the win for us. It was amazing."

The victory marked Barcelona's first win over Lyon in a UWCL final, having previously gone up against the French side at both the 2019 and 2022 Champions League finals. It's also Barcelona's second Champions League title in a row.

"It's hard to win it once, but to do it back-to-back, Lyon showed how difficult it is and this team has finally done that," Bronze said. "I think we go down in history as one of the best teams in Europe."

This season, the team also secured a quadruple for the first time in club history, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. The win ensures that coach Jonatan Giráldez — who has officially departed the team to join the NWSL's Washington Spirit — leaves Europe a champion.

"It was an incredible game. I am really happy, it's one of the best days of my life for sure," Giráldez told broadcaster DAZN after the game. "We did an amazing job. I am very proud of all of them."

Following the win, Putellas said her team "can't ask for anything else."

"Our objective was to win four out of four," the Spain international told reporters. "We have achieved everything we wanted. Every minute of sacrifice has been worth the effort — and I'd say that not after the game, but before, just entering in the stadium, with all the support we had here, it was worth it."

2024 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Aitana Bonmatí said that the crowd support made it "feel like Camp Nou."

"I am on cloud nine right now," she said. "It is an historic day which we will remember forever."

Sun’s Alyssa Thomas Ejected After Flagrant 2 on Sky Rookie Angel Reese

Angel Reese said there were "no hard feelings" stemming from Alyssa Thomas's flagrant foul. (Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Angel Reese might have gotten knocked down on Saturday, but she got right back up again. 

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas was ejected from the Sun’s 86-82 win over Chicago following a flagrant foul 2 on Reese — the first of her career. While the two were battling for a rebound, Reese took a clothesline hold around the neck courtesy of Thomas before hitting the ground.

After the game, Reese told reporters that there were "no hard feelings" and she appreciated Thomas for playing her hard beneath the basket.

"I know she purposely probably didn’t do it towards me," Reese said. "But just being able to come out there and just be strong and stand on two feet, it was going to be a tough game and that’s what I’m built for. And my teammates had my back throughout the whole game. So I was prepared for it."

She also didn’t buy into the idea that it was a "Welcome to the WNBA" moment, but thanked Thomas "sending a message" because it helped her get back up and "keep pushing."

"It’s not just because I’m a rookie. I’m a player. I’m a basketball player. They don’t give a damn if I’m a rookie. I mean, I want them to come at me every day. I want them to come at everybody," she added. "I mean, they’re not supposed to be nice to me. I hope y’all know that. They’re not supposed to be nice to me or lay down because I’m Angel Reese or because I’m a rookie."

Reese finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds, and two assists over 33 minutes.

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

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