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The Olympic Memoir We’d Like to See

While most of the publishing industry was getting ready for the penultimate early weekend of the summer, Free Press announced that it had signed a deal with Olympic swimming sensation Michael Phelps to publish Built to Succeed, a memoir offering “the secrets of his success and… his approach to training, competition, and winning,” according to the announcement in Publishers Marketplace.

Considering this deal, and the news from across the Atlantic about possible book deals for British medalists, another potentially attractive possibility presented itself: What about a memoir by American marathoner Ryan Hall?

Hall had already gotten significant attention from the media, including Peter Hessler‘s New Yorker profile and Michael Perry‘s Runner’s World cover story. Enough of the runner’s personality comes through in both articles to suggest that he could tell his own story in an equally compelling manner if he chose to do so, and his pre-Olympic blog offers further evidence. The more you learn about Hall’s strong Christian faith and his participation in Team World Vision, an organization that helps poverty-stricken communities raise themselves to self-sustainability, it’s easy to see him writing a book that combines the best elements of Tony Dungy‘s Quiet Strength and John Woods‘s Leaving Microsoft to Change the World. Hall’s home page already had the perfect title, one with extra poignancy following his tenth-place finish: More Precious Than Gold. If you want to understand how powerful this story could be, watch the following video.


“I definitely feel like God has kind of made me for the marathon,” Hall said recently, and it seems, if his involvement with Team World Vision is any indication, he may have come to an understanding as to His motives—an understanding that it’s hard not to imagine from a publisher’s perspective as bearing commercial potential.

“We might be interested,” Michael Hyatt, the president and CEO of Thomas Nelson, one of America’s leading Christian publishers, emailed when asked if the company had had any serious discussions about a Hall memoir. “However, we’d have to know more than we know now.” Hyatt also noted that Nelson and Team World Vision already work together through the Revolve Tour and the Women of Faith conference series.

“There has not been consideration to pitch his story as yet,” Hall’s agent, Ray Flynn of Flynn Sports Management, emailed in response to a query the day before the marathon—perfectly understandable given the momentousness of the challenge Hall had set for himself. Now that the race is over, perhaps that will change—because it doesn’t matter that Ryan Hall isn’t bringing a medal back from Beijing. His story is already amazing enough without one.

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