The world is quite literally at the feet of Linden Hall from a running perspective as she looks towards a national record, world championships final and a chance to put right an Olympic dream in Tokyo. It has all come together pretty quickly for the 25-year-old who last year became the third fastest Australian woman all-time over 1500m, less than a second behind national record holder Sarah Jamieson.
Hall’s time of 4:01.78 at the 2016 Prefontaine Classic in Oregon (USA) solidified her chances to make the final at the Olympics in Rio after she previously defeated a quality field at the Stanford Invitational by more than three seconds.
“After already running a huge PB of 4:04 at Stanford a few weeks earlier, I went in thinking shaving any more time off would always be a bonus,” Hall said.
“The pace was set to be pretty quick, so all I wanted to do was hitch a ride and see where that took me.
“I didn’t hear a split or look at a clock throughout, so was in huge shock when the times came up on the board.”
Unfortunately for Hall a berth in the final did not eventuate in Brazil, missing out by less than a quarter of a second, finishing eighth in the faster first semi-final behind Moroccan Rababe Arafi. A photograph of Hall with trusty bow in her hair, hands on hips and a brooding expression of disappointment on her face after crossing the line is a poignant reminder of what could have been.
“That photo reminds me of how close I got to that final, and how much I hated watching the final from the stands,” Hall recounted.
“It definitely serves as a powerful motivator to do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen next time.”
Despite the bow in her hair, ever-present smile and the composure she has while racing on the track Hall admits she could also easily be described as a more stereotypical type of athlete – obsessively driven. Similarly to most of her peers an Olympic medal is the ultimate goal, as is the national record along with being the first Australian woman to break that elusive four-minute barrier for 1500m.
“I’d like to think that I’m a very happy, passionate and confident athlete, but honestly I probably could also be described as competitive and obsessive,” Hall explained.
“I do love having structure and routine to my training, and making sure every box is ticked and everything smoothly works together,” Hall said.
Completing most her of her training sessions in Melbourne with a group known as the ‘Wolfpack’, comprised of three training squads that often work out together, will undoubtedly help Hall push towards that sub-four club.
“I love the culture of our training group, it’s pretty relaxed and we have a good time, but get a lot of hard work done too of course,” Hall explained.
“Our traditional pre-session coffee meetings are definitely a key aspect of our training.
“Having three groups make up the Wolfpack, means there are opportunities to jump into sessions together as well as being able to support each other and share the successes.
“Confidence is a new addition, which as largely developed through the success of 2016 and the positive supports I have around me every day.”
That new-found confidence was on full display at the recent Nitro Athletics, where Hall was selected as part of Team Australia and won the maximum points available in both the women’s elimination mile on the first night, and also when she teamed up with Luke Mathews (Vic) the following Thursday in the 3-minute challenge.
“I wasn’t sure exactly how it was all going to go down,” Hall told Channel 7 after the race.
“In front of a big crowd and with the clocking ticking down – it was so stressful, but really fun!”
Just weeks later, Hall reaffirmed the sharp form she is in, by taking off in both preliminary and final races to win the 1500m at the Victorian Athletics Championships at Lakeside Stadium. Despite running on her own Hall was not far away from the London world championships qualifying time of 4:07.50, a pace now well within her abilities as a miler.
“Certainly, after missing the final by such a small margin in Rio making the final in London is one of my biggest goals for this year,” Hall said.
“Like many, since I was little I said I wanted an Olympic medal – so of course that would be the pinnacle.
“However, for me I think a successful running career would be defined by me feeling I did everything to get the most out of myself and took all the opportunities that running presents.
“Of course, medals, records and fast times are great ways to measure and I’d love to tick as many things off that list as possible.”
Breaking four minutes would be a huge achievement for Hall who is almost finished her Master of Dietetics at Monash University and currently balancing training with a full-time placement at Box Hill Hospital.
“It’s definitely something that we’re thinking about, and of course I’d certainly like to think it’s there,” she said of breaking four minutes.
“It would be an incredible milestone to reach, if someone had of told this time last year this would be on the horizon I probably never would have believed them.
“I’d definitely like to keep the national record at Athletics Essendon, which adds an extra incentive.”
Hall will be running in the 1500m this weekend at the #SUMMERofATHS Grand Prix in Canberra as a final tune-up before the Australian Athletics Championships in Sydney later this month.