Molly Huddle was entered into the FootLocker Hall of Fame just a few weeks ago. It was another accolade for one of the finest of America’s distance runners. A former 5,000 meter AR holder, presently the AR 10,000m record holder, Molly Huddle is coming off a fine debut marathon, where she placed third in a cool and windy New York City Marathon.
In speaking with Molly a few times over the FootLocker weekend, it became apparent that she is very happy in her life, which gives her remarkable focus in her athletic career.
Okay, I will spill it.
As part of this journey as athletic pilgrim, one becomes appreciative of many of the athletes skills one opines on, and in fact, well, at least in my case, make emotional ties with the athletes and their performances. This is mostly in a Walter Mitty way, as I do not want athletes to think I am some kind of stalker.
I remember watching Emma Coburn break the AR in the steeplechase in Glasgow, and I could feel myself tearing up before an interview. I was so happy for her. One respects that the records come after only tremendous effort and the ease with which a record is set hides the ten to fifteen years of giving of oneself in training and the life style of an elite athlete. When Alistair Cragg told me, after Amy Cragg made the Olympic marathon team, that he had been quite nervous and emotional over his wife’s bid for the Olympic team, I got it.
My feelings with Molly Huddle are similar. I remember speaking with her in 2010, in East Croyden, after she had run in Crystal Palace. She told Mark Bossardet, Saucony’s sports marketing chief, that she would stay in Europe two more weeks to get a shot at the 5000 meter record. She broke it, finishing ninth in the Van Damme 5000, and setting the AR. She ran with abandon in a race packed with the best in the world.
In 2014, at my first visit to the Monaco Grand Prix, I watched Molly Huddle not only set the AR, but hold off Shannon Rowbury, for the second time that season. A tremendous race by both athletes. As I was waiting for a taxi, Molly and Ray Flynn, her manager, offered to share a taxi with me, and she allowed me to do an interview afterwards. The interview was light and fun, and honest. It is amazing, after a race with a huge effort, athletes become even more articulate and give your a view into their inner thoughts not seen at other times. A thoughtful runner, with a whimsical sense of humor, Molly impressed me as an athlete with tremendous drive and huge focus.
In Beijing in 2015, I was heartbroken to see her lose the medal in the 10,000 meters. I respect Emily Infeld and Molly Huddle, and had to write about both that day with honesty and sense of respect. A very hard thing to do when you see these athletes, and respect their personal journeys to their moments of success. Both runners had wanted the same medal, and one won, one did not. It was eye opening, as while I realized that this happened all of the time, each and every day at a championship, it was a bit of a revelation in this unique event, where the US had their best placement in a 10,000 meters ever.
I always thought that Molly handled her cold journey into hell that day with class and respect for her fellow athlete, Emily Infeld. Emily Infeld is the epitome of an thoughtful athlete, who overcame injuries and battled to the very, bitter end of the race.
The fall of 2015, and 2016 and the huge success that Molly Huddle had, were, I believe, because of that tough day in Beijing. The ‘Miles of Trials and Trials of Miles” that John Parker wrote about in Once a Runner is so true. A bad moment in racing or series of bad races, can be used to motivate and inspire. Huddle’s wins at 10,000 meters and 5000 meters in Eugene were personal victories. She did not have to run the 5000 meters, that was her treat to herself. She ran it hard, and finished with the cunning of a racer in fine shape.
Then, we get to August 2016. Watching Molly Huddle, Emily Infeld and Marielle Hall run the 10,000 meters was a fantastic experience. Molly Huddle went out with the goal of pushing herself as hard as she could, for as long as she could, with the ability to finish strong. She was on AR pace for 5000 meters, until about 600 meters from that mark, when she put the brakes on, hitting 14:55. Over the final 1000 meters, Huddle moved from eighth to sixth, setting a new AR and running the finest track race of her life.
Molly Huddle would possess the 5000m and 10,000m ARs for a short time, as Shannon Rowbury took the AR under 14:40, to a brilliant 14:38. Molly praised Shannon after that race, noting that Shannon had taken the AR to where it should be. None the less, I believe that there will be a few 5000 meters in her schedule in 2017, to see what she can do over the 12 and half lapper.
Her marathon debut was done on a windy, cool day in the Big Apple, where she ran by herself for nearly ten miles. Sally Kipyego a friendly rival, took second, having moved earlier than Molly, as Molly, clearly sprinting, stayed out of trouble and took a strong third.
In the second week of December, I spent a few minutes chatting with Molly and she was relaxed, but as always, poised. She spoke of how well training was going, of her husband and her getting some training in over the weekend, and her pride over Emily Sisson and how Emily was developing. We also spoke about her coach, Ray Treacy, of whom she has much pride and confidence.
When queried on 2017, it was noted she was focusing on the half marathon in New York in March, training with Emily Sisson for Emily’s first half marathon. She also spoke of the fun she had training with Amy Cragg as well, who has now moved to Portland, Oregon.
It was also obvious she has some unfinished business over 10,000 meters for London 2017. That gave me a sigh of relief, as I believe she be the first American woman under 30 minutes. Her amazing stride, which I equate with the great Garry Bjorklund, a fine runner in the 1970s who made other fine runners look rickety, gives her amazing presense. Her drive and focus put her place to battle for top six, and perhaps more in 2017.
There are obviously more marathons in Molly Huddle’s future. The 10,000 meters is a personal exercise for Huddle, an event that she can run quite well, even though her best track distance may be the 5000 meters. We shall see next summer. Those wonderful miles add up, and her endurance and speed come together in the races over 12 and half and 25 laps.
But for now, we will let Molly get back to her training and enjoying the holiday. We will let the dreams of track fans stay just that, until next spring.