Who Needs A Coach When You Have Prayer?

Marathon runner Ryan Hall has had a rough year.

He developed plantar fasciitis on his left foot, which lead to a hamstring injury (causing him to drop out of the Olympic Marathon), which lead to a quad injury, which means he’s missing the New York City Marathon this November.  He hasn’t been able to run for three weeks which, for a serious runner, sucks.

But lets back up a bit to see if we can figure out what happened…

Hall is even re-evaluating his coaching situation. Two years ago, he left coach Terrence Mahon and the Mammoth Track Club to strike out on his own. Hall has called it faith-based coaching, relying on prayer and what he calls conversation with God to steer his training and racing decisions.

Evidently, it has not worked out so great for him.

I am not trying to kick the guy while he is down, but I think that this case is a really good example of how a healthy skepticism can keep you, well, healthy.

 And Hall received no shortage of remedies for the [plantar fasciitis] from family, friends, and strangers. His father suggested wrapping the foot with duct tape. 

To be fair, it isn’t clear if he took his dad up on the suggestion.  However, after Hall had an MRI that revealed a severe strain in his hamstring, he certainly went to a different doctor than I would have:

Hall, who splits training time between Redding and Flagstaff, Arizona, plans to travel today to Phoenix to be examined by his long-time therapist, chiropractor John Ball. Hall wants Ball’s input on the status of the left quad and his body in general.

Yikes.  Not the person a professional athlete with a potentially career ending leg injury should be seeing.

I hope for the best for Hall.  I also really hope he puts his athletic career in the hands of trained coaches and doctors and not invisible men in the sky and chiropractors.

About Jessica Bluemke

Jessica Bluemke grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and graduated from Ball State University in 2008 with a BA in Literature. She currently works as a writer and resides on the North side of Chicago.

  • http://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole Introvert

    Ryan Hall is the butt of many jokes by me and my running buddies who share the same skeptical outlook on life.   He’s done nothing but plummet after leaving his coach and team.  The big thing about Hall is that he can’t speak a sentence or two without invoking the name of Jesus or God.  He sounds psychotic.  It’s sad because he’s such an amazing talent, I hate to see it go to waste.

    Meb Keflezighi is pretty damn religious too, but he understands what proper coaching and training can do, and brought it in 4th for the USA at the Olympics.  That may not be a medal, but he ran and extremely smart race.  Meb can also be interviewed and may thank God once, but he also throws in all the other important folks who make it happen.

    Then again… my favorite long distance runner is Kara Goucher and she’s never seen without her power-band necklace.

  • ortcutt

    Having God as your coach means that you are your own coach.  It’s not hard to see why that’s not going to be effective given that you need different eyes and a different judgment, not just the voices in your head.

  • Rennyrij

    What is it with you people regarding Chiropractic?  As I’ve moved around in the last 35 years, I’ve gone to 4 different chiropractors, and I cannot see what you could possibly have against them!  They relieve the (usually lower back) pain and I can get on with my life!  They use deep muscle massage, TENS, ultrasound, and if a problem is more than they feel that can be handled by Chiropractic, they refer you to your medical doctor.  All I can figure is that “Chiropractor” means something very different in California and Chicago than it does in Pennsylvania and New York!  Ours have to study and pass rigorous testing, and New York’s tests are tougher than Pennsylvania’s.  Don’t yours require testing and registration, like Medical Doctors? IT IS  HIGH TIME THAT YOU CLARIFY JUST WHAT YOU MEAN BY “CHIROPRACTIC”, BEFORE YOU GO AND  DISPARAGE IT!

  • http://twitter.com/HealthyHumanist The Healthy Humanist

    There are definitely different “chiropractors” out there.  Do not bash the whole field because some are woo-tards.

  • Doug

    Why can’t the field manage themselves? Why should it be incumbent upon consumers to figure out which chiropractors are doing real medicine, and which are relying on the magical nonsense known as chiropractic?

  • http://twitter.com/HealthyHumanist The Healthy Humanist

    They do what they can.  The DCs coming out of Palmer Chiropractic all try to dispel the bullshit that the woo-peddlers set up shop with.  I don’t know why it should be incumbent on consumers but it would definitely make them better consumers.

  • Glasofruix

    In this case the guy prefers a masseuse instead of a real doctor for a problem which cannot be solved with only a massage.

  • Sean McCann

    How bout some light reading?

  • Sergio

    There isn’t much to clarify. “Chiropractic” is not evidence based, it’s entire foundation that “subluxations” are responsible for negative effects on the body is entirely made up. It deserves no respect.

  • allein

    My mother went to a chiropractor for back issues when I was a kid (she had surgery when I was 9 for ruptured discs; I forget if the chiropractor was before or after the surgery). She had better results with Ben-Gay.

  • Beau Quilter


    I believe it’s the “chiropractic” profession that needs to clarify the term!

    You say that the treatments that seem to help you are deep muscle massage, (TENS), and ultrasound. These are treatments that are delivered by physicians, physical therapists, and massage therapists. 

    If this is all a chiropractor does, then he/she should more honestly call him/herself a physical therapist.

    Chiropractors, however, subscribe to the old debunked theory of subluxations that involves other therapies that have been known to increase, rather than relieve injury.

    If you’ve been safe so far, then great – sounds like your chiropractor has only been practicing standard accepted physical therapy treatments with you.

    However, since you’re really just getting physical therapy, you might consider switching to someone who simply calls him/herself a licensed physical therapist.

  • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

    My mom was injured by an incompetent chiropractor. That said, I don’t think all are horrible. Doing your homework is vital to choosing a professional versus a quack. My mom learned that lesson the hard way, the upside is that I was taught to be more cautious and informed.

  • John W

     Pretty much nailed it there Sergio well done.
    The mantra from these practioners of woo is,”Fear” then “Hope” it keeps em coming back for more woo.

  • splodie

    Taping the foot is actually a treatment for plantar fascitis. There is a specific method, but the idea is that support is required to allow the fascia to heal properly.

  • http://twitter.com/butterflyfish_ Heidi McClure

    What does California have to do with anything? He’s going to “his long-time therapist, chiropractor John Ball,” who is in Phoenix. Arizona.

  • Gringa

     Agreed – I was lucky to find a legit chiropractor who also specialized in sports injury rehab, so maybe his chiropractor is similar.  I don’t agree that a chiropractor should be your only doctor, but some do have proper training on the muscular-skeletal system and can help you recover from sports injuries.

  • Blacksheep

    Judging from the reaction to Chiropractors, I’m beginning to gain (maybe(?) a deeper understanding into the atheist mindset. Evidence as to whether or not something has merit for me would include a problem solved, a pain gone, renewed flexibility, etc. What it sounds like is that even if something works, it can’t be true unless it can be scientifically proven.
    I had serious plantar trouble for years, and went to three different MD’s who all fitted me for custom arch supports for my running shoes. The pain never went away, in fact it got worse. So they prescribed physical therapy, cortizone, etc.
    Last year I started running barefoot twice a week on grass for 3/4 of a mile as part of my run. After 7 barefoot runs, pain is gone 100%. The medical community refuses to prescribe barefoot training, because it’s not backed up by hard science (although that’s changing, slowly).

    Evidence should include case studies and results and effects. 

  • Gringa

    clarification – Reading the posts below, I’d consider him more of a physical therapist who also does chiropractic.

  • amycas

     Once there are some actual studies on barefoot therapy (which I’ve heard of and find intriguing) then MD’s can prescribe the therapy. You see doctors can only prescribe medications and therapies that have been medically proven to be effective. Until we have those actual studies, you’re just an anecdote.

  • NickDB

    I’m still really confused about what a Chiro is in the States. Here in South Africa they’re proper GPs who have added another 2 years over and above their studies to become a doctor to specialize in the muscular-skeletal field , they can not practice without first their medical degree then their chiropractic degree and a license.

    What qualifications do you need in the USA?

    That been said all the Chiro’s I know here work closely with physiotherapists.

  • NickDB

     No that’s the definition in the USA, very definitely not that every where else.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I think he means that the man should probably see a doctor that specializes in foot injuries. Really, it’s not that out there. 

  • Baby_Raptor

    Ever heard of the placebo effect? That throws your “evidence” right out the window.

    And if you want to actually “learn” something about “the atheist mindset,” try actually talking to some of us on things that are remotely related to Atheism. Until then, shut up.

  • Blacksheep

    If someone’s life is radically changed, if a pain goes away or is literally healed, that’s not a placebo effect. 

    I’ve actually learned quite a bit about the atheist mindset, and I’ve tried to do it all without being rude or disrespectful. Hopefully you’ve learned more about the Christian mindset as well.

    Not sure what you mean about talking about things “remotely related to Atheism”… I was responding specifically to a post on chiropractors, not taking on all of atheism.

  • Blacksheep

    Yes – but it seems that an atheist would say that “it’s not true until the study happens”, as if truth depends upon a study to be true. Truth is not manufactured, it just is – and sometimes we can discover it.

  • Harald

     If it makes you happy, I am an atheist and feel experimenting with walking barefoot fixed my back pain. It forces a different gait compared to walking in shoes, that was evidently better for my back, and additionally my right knee which I also had problems with. I tried copying my movements from the barefoot experiments to walking in shoes without raised heel, and I honestly believe this is what made it possible for me to go on long hikes without suffering, which was never possible for me in the past.

  • Peaslepuff

     Thank you! My chiropractor has helped me more than any doctor has (unfortunately) with my spondylolisthesis. I’ve known some sketchy chiros, but also some excellent ones – same as doctors.

  • Guest

    Jessica, I think you would have been better of leaving out the fairly snide remarks regarding chiropractors. It seems that has become more interesting than any other part of your entry.

  • Mairianna

    The duct tape thing works for a plantar warts, but not for plantar fasciitis.  Silly daddy! 

  • decathelite

    Ryan Hall visited the church I used to go to about a year and a half ago. As a runner, I went just to see him, even if it meant being surrounded by people who hadn’t shaken their faith like I had. He’s one of those athletes that can’t go 10 seconds without mentioning God, all while “encouraging” other runners that if they strengthen their belief in God they will make better use of their gifts. He doesn’t understand that you can’t just will yourself to have better running genes – the kind of genes that allow him to run as well as he does.

  • http://netwrok.us/videos/ Viral Videos

    Looks like God doesn’t want him running.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/BIAYZBS25OB5G3JAA3UX7HSLRY Btown Matrix

    We don’t make the trust, we only discover it. Google ‘running barefoot’ and you’ll find an even mix of success/defeat stories. 

    You keep going on about ‘the atheist mindset’ like you have a clue. Why didn’t you just pray away the foot pain?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/BIAYZBS25OB5G3JAA3UX7HSLRY Btown Matrix

    You can’t just will yourself into a successful self-coach either.

  • Gtvvgt

    God is so awesome. Just the other day he helped me find his carkeys. I don’t know what these people in 3rd world countries are doing wrong.

  • Scott

     You don’t know much about sports medicine do you? Chiropractors are perfectly capable of dealing with such injuries. God however, is not.

  • BadPlasmid

    Chiropracters are not trained in medicine.  They are glorified massage therapists that rely on pseudoscience and placebo effect to ‘heal’ people.  They are nowhere near qualified to deal with orthopedic injuries among elite athletes.  

  • 8088y12

    Explain how your experience is not a placebo effect (or coincidence or luck). The difference between a sample size of 1(your own experience) and actual structured clinical trials with thousands of people is the difference between being gullible and being reasonable.

    If a million people stood outside their house and prayed for a blue car to drive past there’s a great chance that a blue car would drive past one of them. That isn’t proof that their prayer was answered.

    A skeptical mindset would require a claim to be reproducible. It has been demonstrated time and again that personal experience is incredibly unreliable and biased.

    But as has been mentioned Chiropractor can mean a number of things. But the traditional practice of chiropractic is pure nonsense.

  • 8088y12

    No. It’s not known or proven to be true until studies confirm it. It’s true or not regardless of whether anyone knows it. 

    There’s a huge difference. A skeptical mindset is about investigating the truth regardless of what that truth turns out to be, and then changing that opinion if the evidence changes/improves.A non-critical thinker will draw their conclusion from insufficient data and leave it at that (e.g. reading a single webpage or their own biased personal experience). It will lead to the right answer some of the time, but it’s going to be an answer based on the wrong reasoning.

  • Auralcummer


  • Guest

    That’s not true at all. You’re speaking out of your ass.

  • BadPlasmid

    If by “out my ass” you mean as a medical professional then sure. If you can find me some peer reviewed research that shows that chiropractics treats orthopedic injuries anywhere above a placebo I will be surprised.

  • BadPlasmid

    Chiropractors in the US are not Medical Doctors.  They don’t even need a college degree (though they do attend a 1-2 year ‘chiropractor school’).  Their practice is based largely on psuedoscience and does not generally follow evidence-based guidelines.  There have been many studies to try and determine efficacy of chiropractic ‘medicine’ and manipulation and nearly all of them show no benefit over placebo.

    We do have Doctors of Osteopathy (D.O.) who ARE fully licensed medical professionals and generally have the same training and residency requirements as an M.D. (many even go through M.D. residencies) and can be full specialists/surgeons/etc, but also get trained in some of the manipulations that chiropractics uses.  Most, however, do not use it in practice and recognize it as an alternative medicine remnant left over from before we had the modern scientific basis for medicine.

  • JoJo

    Chiropractors are more than capable of dealing with that. They take more Anatomy, Diagnostic, Neurology, and lab hours than Med School students do and do it in 5-10 months less time. Med school students take the cake in “clinical clerkship” hours however, because of residencies, whereas that is included in the last year and a half of Chiropractic School. 

  • BadPlasmid

    You don’t understand the ‘placebo effect’.  The fact is that people who take a placebo DO get ‘literally healed’.  In fact, placebo is just as effective as chiropractics in most clinical studies.  Might want to learn what the ‘placebo effect’ is before commenting about it.

  • Dr. D.C.

     As a chiropractor I feel you should be informed:

    We take hundreds more hours than med school students, particularly in the fields of anatomy, neurology, diagnosing, and clinical sciences and basic med school sciences. Not to mention we do it about 9 months less time and take the same Boards, etc.

  • BadPlasmid

    Really, so it takes you 10 years to become a chiropractor?  Because even a G.P. spends 4 years in University getting their BA/BS, 4 years in med school and at least 2-3 years in a residency.  Specialists will often spend 12+ years in training.   Med school is 4 years of roughly 30-40 units a term equivalent.

    You are either clueless about what medical school entails, or not in the USA (as in, where the chiropractor in this article practices). Do chiropractors even have an anatomy lab involving human cadavers? 

    USA Chiropractors can get their license in less than 4 years of school, and it is nowhere NEAR as rigorous as medical school.  

    I would love to see you take my boards, or those of a board certified neurologist, orthopedist or orthopedic surgeon. 

  • Viperx77
  • Baby_Raptor

    I was raised as a christian, as were most of the people here. And then there’s life in America in general. This seems to be a defect in the typical christianist thinking…Assuming that people who don’t follow your beliefs simply need to learn more. 

    Trust me. Everyone in America has christianity shoved down their throats. We know about it. I know about it. I don’t need to learn anything more about the christian mindset. I already know christians are liars, hateful, generally unintelligent  and all around hooting dickholes. 

    Also, the placebo effect can cause temporary “fake healing,” as it were. It can cause a situation where the injury seems healed for awhile. So that throws your claim out the window, again. 

    Quote from you: “Judging from the reaction to Chiropractors, I’m beginning to gain (maybe(?) a deeper understanding into the atheist mindset.” 

    You were discussing Atheists. You were claiming to learn something about us from a completely unrelated topic. My advice makes sense, and stands. If you really want to learn about us, try studying something pertinent to actual Atheism. There are plenty of religious ponies who have the save view of chiropractics that has been voiced here, so it’s not indicative of anything. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/ManticorePee Manticore Pinion

    So you have the keys to God’s car? What’s he drive?

  • strangebrew151

    Prolly a Tesla, save the world he created, plus He’s classy as s**t.

  • Oswaldcraig

    Actually the head physician for the Olympics training facilities is a chiropractor.There are bad chiropractors out there just as there are bad MDs and orthopedic doctors.

  • BadPlasmid

    Chiropractics as a profession is based on outdated mysticism and has little valid clinical support in the form of peer reviewed research. While there are likely some who practice more along the lines of what we call physical therapy, most of the chiropractic BS about back alignment and the role of manual manipulations to improve overall health has been overwhelming shown in studies as bunk.

    There is a reason Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Princenton… et. al. have medical schools and not Chiropractic schools. Chiropractics are not based on science.

    Beyond that, the head physician of the US Olympic medical staff is Dr. Cindy Chang, an MD from Berkeley, who is a sports medicine physician and not a chiropractor. Chiropractors are not physicians, at least not in the United States or the UK. As such, it’s highly unlikely that the Head Physician in London was a chiropractor.

    Some Chiropractors are probably better than others, but as a field, there is a reason they call it “alternative medicine”, because real medicine is backed by science.

  • Naery

    Ah. That explains it. In many other countries, such as Canada, you actually have to be a Medical Doctor to be a chiropractor. It also helps that in those countries, Chiropractors do not claim to help random other diseases with spine alignment; only to help with bone-related  issues (such as a lot of the really bad muscle strains and such).

    That said, the same as with any other field, you find good ones and bad ones.

  • OCRazor

    The Bible that tells us the Lord drove a Plymouth Fury:
    Jeremiah, chapter 32. Verse 37 reads “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my Fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely:”
    And we all know if it’s in the Bible it must be true!

  • Runlevel0

    Yeah, pity. Good runner and he gave some good and sound advice such as including 30 second accelerations into long runs to increase heart rate and pace.

    His dad was/is obsessed with biomechanics and also was a source of good advice. i would therefore not judge his tape advice without knowing the context, it makes some sense in a cse of PF.

    But yes, all this Jebus stuff from Ryan sounds really psychotic. Maybe too much pressure. I guess he needs a time off the roads and tracks and away from bibles…

  • http://www.aicwebmaster.net/ Richard Smith

    Apparently, god sucks as a coach!