All Eyes on Molly Huddle, by Cait Chock

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Huddle_Molly-Pre16.jpgMolly Huddle, photo by PhotoRun.net

Molly Huddle is a doe-eyed beastmaster. Ever observant, ever focused, Molly had dedicated much of the last decade into seeing just how fast and long she can run. Her form may be the cleanest of any active American woman, Molly Huddle is built to run fast over 5000 meters and 10,000 meters. And her finish is unrelenting.

But this, dear readers, is the eve of the Olympic Trials, and some believe, that, for Molly Huddle, this may be a spectacular Trials. Can she win the 10,000 meters? Can she win the 5,000 meters? Heck, will Molly Huddle win both the 5000 meters and 10,000 meters.

In this thoughtful piece by Cait Chock, Molly Huddle is building towards a fall marathon, in the Big Apple. That she has taken her time to build to the 26.2 mile distance is most important. But for a track fan like myself, I continue to want to see her run 25 laps, as I believe, she has another American record for which to reach out.

All Eyes on Molly Huddle

By: Cait Chock

When Molly Huddle steps to the line of the NYC Marathon in November she will finally be silencing all those pestering her about WHEN she will run a marathon. She will have in all likelihood come straight off of an Olympic showing and into marathon grind mode. She will in all likelihood stun us all with a ridiculously incredible debut. When Molly Huddle races she doesn't do so unless she is ready to race for a win.

It's been two years since Huddle first got serious about wanting to race a marathon, but her coach, Ray Treacy, logically suggested she start with the half, finish some business on the track, and go from there. "Ray had suggested I wait until 2016 a while ago in order to focus on finishing well in Championships on the track and getting some of those PRs down," explains Huddle.

Training with Treacy's elite group in Providence, Huddle's teammates have often been amidst marathon training and in, "the fall of 2013 I tagged along on parts of tempos, workouts, and long runs with the marathon crew and raced well in the following road races, so that's when I realized there was room for improvement in that area going forward." Three years of gradually building her strength and endurance, Huddle can see the rewards in her workouts and how she feels. Most notably her two mile repeats, once considered her weakness, Huddle is excited to say she's a lot more confident going into them, "a lot more consistent with them and [I] don't bomb as often." To her credit though, a Huddle 'bomb' of a workout could still blow away most mortals on their best day.

True to her humble nature Huddle is erring on the side of caution and conservative when it comes to expectations for her first marathon race. Both she and Ray agree it's better to go in healthy and fresh versus over-trained. And, this being only her first there are plenty of years to grow into the event and learn how much they can push her limits in regards to the volume and intensity of marathon training. "I'd love to run under 2:30 and compete well in the top 5-10, but it depends on who is racing."

The announcement of Huddle's first marathon, one of the most highly anticipated debuts, making us reminiscent of when Shalane Flanagan announced she would be moving up to the 26.2 mile distance, was so big in fact it made many of us gloss over what would typically be the biggest headline for the year. Namely, the Olympics.

Molly Huddle certainly hasn't forgotten about them though, and her post-Olympic marathon debut isn't detracting her focus from the more immediate goals at hand. Huddle will be competing in both the 10k and 5k at the Trials. If all goes to plan she will earn her trip to Rio in the 10k but, "will race the 5000 prelims and finals to get another good hard race in and evaluate from there."

Four years since her first Olympic berth, Huddle is in a much different position than she was in 2012. More specifically, this time she is the one to beat, as the reigning National Champion for the 10,000 meter event and current American Record holder for the 5,000 meter event (14:42.64). She feels more prepared and much more confident, and should she make the Olympics, this time around she will be able to relax a bit. "Having been to the Olympics before is an advantage because it's hard to wrap your head around the size and magnitude of the event and focus on the race," admits Huddle. "I remember not being able to even look up at the crowd on the start line because I was trying to pretend I was just at a regular meet in order to not freak out! I think should I be there again in Rio it will be easier to tune all that out." Tune out the crowd and tune in to the hunt for a medal.

Four years later and Huddle is wiser in other ways, her training now includes more 'little things' like weight lifting, mobility work, and injury preventative exercises. She recognizes all of these keep her healthy enough to tackle "guru" Ray's running workouts and allow her to get faster. This means even forcing down some yoga, "I don't love the yoga but as I run more mileage and get a bit older I need to stretch and that helps - I keep priority on running and workouts but a little has gone a long way with the ancillary exercises."

Huddle_Molly1b-Pre16.jpgMolly Huddle, photo by PhotoRun.net

It's a packed year for Huddle, and the short timespan between Rio and the NYC Marathon in November means as soon as she gets back to the States she'll be going straight into building up her long run distance. She'll have 10 weeks to concentrate on longer tempo runs and a consistently high weekly mileage.

With the extra mileage Huddle happily welcomes the increased carbohydrate requirements, "I am looking forward to eating extra carbs! It's funny because Kim [Smith] and Amy [Cragg] would complain about it because they would prefer to eat a rack of ribs but I am pumped for bagels, assuming donuts are not optimal." Sadly, I think we all wish donuts were optimal.

The fueling and nutritional aspect of marathon racing and training is also a new element for Huddle and a new challenge she is looking forward to figuring out and finding which drinks and combinations work the best for her. "Also, I'm looking forward to the newness of the event; it will be interesting to focus on strength and patience over speed and urgency and see how that goes. It will probably be gratifying to do some longest-ever long runs."

Proving she is human after all, and feels the pain that is hard training like everyone else, "I'm probably least looking forward to the fatigue that I hear you have to practice dealing with. Getting used to running hard on tired legs seems to be a grueling part of the preparation for that last 10k of the race."

Though, while she may feel the pain, you wouldn't know it watching her charge down any finishing stretch.

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Caitlin Chock (caitchock.com) set the then National High School 5k Record (15:52.88) in 2004 and previously ran for Nike. A freelance writer and artist, you can see more of her work on her website and Instagram @caitchock.

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