Molly Huddle Very Impressively Finishes 3rd in New York in Her Marathon Debut – Is A Low 2:20s Coming Soon?

November 6, 2016

NEW YORK — Few marathon debuts in recent years have been more anticipated by American running fans than the one Molly Huddle made in New York. Though Huddle, the American record holder at 10,000, downplayed things before the race, saying she would be happy with a top-six finish, expectations from the public were high, with 56% of LetsRun nation believing Huddle would finish in the top three. Huddle did exactly that, running a typically smart, tough race to finish third in 2:28:13, behind champion Mary Keitany (2:24:26) and runner-up Sally Kipyego (2:28:01).

“I thought it was a big step in learning how to race the marathon,” Huddle said. “It seems [to be] about who manages themselves the best. I feel like I learned a lot today. I’m glad I had a good experience, and I’m really happy to be third.”

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Huddle ran with the leaders early on but when Keitany, Aselefech Mergia and Joyce Chepkirui broke free after a 5:06 10th mile, Huddle fell back after running a 5:12. Not going with the big move proved to be a wise decision as she would eventually reel in both Mergia and Chepkirui before the finish line.

“I kind of figured I couldn’t go much faster than 5:25, 5:30 if there was a breakaway,” Huddle said.

Huddle moved up to third by 14 miles, passing Mergia (who led her by 28 seconds at 12 miles), but Kipyego passed Huddle during mile 16 to relegate her to fourth. Huddle closed extremely well, however, and passed Chepkirui during the final mile to move back to third by the finish.

Huddle’s debut went about as well as could have been expected. Keitany is one of the greatest marathoners of all time, and though Huddle was gaining on Kipyego late, there’s no shame losing to an Olympic silver medallist. NYC is a tough course on which to run your first marathon, but Huddle was terrific today and joins Kara Goucher (3rd in 2008 in 2:25:53) and Shalane Flanagan (2nd in 2010 in 2:28:40) as recent US stars to excel in their debuts in New York.

Huddle said she learned some lessons today that she hopes to take forward to the future, specifically about pacing, and the U.S. public also learned something too: what a tired Molly Huddle looks like. Many times on the U.S. road scene, Huddle resembles a terminator that never tires, her sole purpose to destroy fields from the front. As she ran through Central Park toward the end of today’s race, she did not possess her usual smooth power. When asked about it, Huddle simply replied: “That’s just how I look when I’m really, really tired.”

Huddle will return to the track in 2017 with an eye on the 10,000 at the World Championships in London, but there will be more marathons to come. Based on today’s result and her mind-boggling consistency — she hasn’t run a bad race in years — we expect the next ones to go just as well, if not better, than today’s effort.

Huddle’s coach Ray Treacy was very satisfied with the way Molly Huddle closed her first marathon today and thinks a low 2:20s lies in her future.

“It’s pretty exciting. I think she managed the race very well. I thought her last four miles were very impressive. That was encouraging to see that in her first marathon she could handle it as well as she did with the limited preparation that she had,” said Treacy, who added that his pre-race advice to Huddle was not to run under 5:30 on any mile unless she absolutely had to stay with the leaders.

Treacy had good reason to praise Huddle’s close. The stats actually reveal that no one in the women’s race was faster over the last 5.2 miles of the race.

Mile Keitany Huddle Kipyego
20th MILE 5:33 5:46 5:48
21st MILE 5:30 5:54 5:53
22nd MILE 5:32 5:38 5:44
23rd MILE 5:34 5:42 5:45
24th MILE 5:44 5:44 5:45
25th MILE 5:49 5:51 5:52
26th MILE 5:59 5:43 5:50
Final .2 to 26.2 1:17 1:04 1:02

When asked what type of time Huddle was capable of down the road on a fast course, Treacy responded:

“I think that anyone that can run low 30 minutes for 10k should be looking at low 2:20. I’d be very disappointed if she couldn’t run in that range in the marathon especially after seeing how she handled the marathon today – that’s not a worry anymore.

“We will be looking to go close to 2:20 in the next couple of races.”

Off camera, Treacy told us he thought Huddle could run a 30:40 10,000 right now.

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