By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
November 14, 2015
ALEXANDRIA, VA. — The women’s division of the .US 12-K National Road Racing Championships has only seen one winner in each of its two previous editions, and it’s likely that won’t change when the race is held for the third time here tomorrow morning. Olympian Molly Huddle of Providence, R.I., who set a world best time of 37:50 in 2013 here, is on the cusp of closing the best season of her life with what would be the 21st national title of her career.
“I’m excited to run my third .US 12-K Championship,” Huddle said at a press conference here today. She continued: “We always have a great field of men and women, and it’s always an exciting race. I’m looking forward to capping off a solid road season here, and then freshening-up for next year.”
Huddle, 31, enjoyed a season which was much more than “solid.” Since opening her competitive year with a victory at the United Airlines NYC Half last March, the Saucony-sponsored athlete has emerged as the most dominant American woman in distance running, from 5000m through the half-marathon. In ten starts this year Huddle has been victorious eight times. She was undefeated on U.S. soil, won six national titles from 5 km to 20 km, set American records at 5 km (14:50) and the half-marathon (68:31/women-only), and set personal bests at five different distances.
Moreover, according to the independent Association of Road Racing Statisticians (ARRS) –which uses a rigorous points system to rank athletes based on head-to-head competition– Huddle is ranked #7 in the world and is the only woman not born in either Ethiopia or Kenya to be ranked in the top-18 in the world.
Huddle, who continues to be coached by Providence College’s Ray Treacy –the man she often refers to as “the guru”– said today that her success has come about from consistent training and a logical annual program based first on building strength over the winter.
“I think the last two years I’ve been getting ready for an early spring half-marathon that helped me kind of carry some strength through the year,” Huddle said. “We just tweak a few workouts throughout the year for that, and it seems to last most of the year, that strength. I always try to fit a road season in, sometimes before the track, sometimes after. I always say it’s my most enjoyable time of the year.”
Huddle’s fall season has been remarkable. She’s won four consecutive races, all of them national championships, by a total margin of three minutes and 21 seconds. In September, she won the national 20-K and 5-K titles in 66:26 and 15:12, respectively, and in October she won the national 10 mile and 10-K crowns in 51:44 and 31:21, respectively. The 10-mile time would have been a national record, had the race not be held on a point-to-point course, and the 10-K winning time was a championships record, smashing Marla Runyan’s mark of 31:46 from back in 2002.
Huddle drew extra motivation from her heart-breaking fourth place finish at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing where, in a rare moment of inattention, she was passed by teammate Emily Infeld at the line, losing the bronze medal in the 10,000m by 9/100ths of a second. Huddle was devastated after the race, but was able to use the incident to strengthen her resolve to become a more disciplined and more focused competitor. That was plain to see during her fall season when, with the exception of the USA 5-K Championships when she faced Shalane Flanagan, she was mostly competing with herself.
“I think that was kind of one way to deal with it, and I definitely wanted to get back to racing sooner than later,” Huddle told Race Results Weekly. “There was kind of a lot of emotion in there at the start of most of the races, and that probably came out in the race. I felt good, though. It felt good to just run hard this fall.”
A victory here tomorrow would mean a $20,000 prize money check for Huddle, plus another $20,000 for winning the overall points title of the USA Road Circuit (Huddle is already the series leader with 75 points, and double points are awarded in the series finale).
Despite her success on the roads this year, it was her USA 10,000m title back in June that stood out for Huddle this year. She said that a national track title is always something to savor.
“Any time you win a U.S. track championship that’s special,” Huddle said. She continued: “Obviously, if you compete against the best in the country –Shalane (Flanagan), Emily (Infeld) and Amy (Cragg)– to come out on top is always a hard task. Championship racing is difficult; sometimes the fittest person doesn’t always walk away with the wins. Those are always challenging for me, so I felt good about the win there.”