Molly Huddle holds the US record in the 5000m with a 14.42.64 best notched at the Monaco Diamond League back in July – the sixth fastest time of the season. She tells SPIKES how she is able to keep getting better and better.
1. A love supreme
Since making her 5km debut as a 12-year-old in a fun run in her home city of Elmira, New York, Molly Huddle says she has always felt “in a comfort zone” over the distance.
And what a comfort zone it is. In her very first 5000m on the track she ran an impressive national junior record of 15:36.95 at Mt Sac Relays in 2003. She reached the final at the 2012 London Olympics and finished sixth at the 2013 world champs.
“The 5km is my favourite distance,” explains the 30-year-old. “I’ve always felt a natural rhythm of the event. I always liked the way it works. There is the speed and excitement of the finish, but it is also a true distance race.”
2. Tools of the trade
It is one thing to love an event – but Huddle says she has many attributes that are a perfect fit for the distance.
“I feel my physiology and body type make the 5000m my best event. It blends top middle-distance speed at the higher level – because the top girls are closing out the final 1500m in 4:07 – and strength. The race still demands a lot of strength because if you are not in contention when the bell rings, then you have a lot of problems.”
In 2014, Huddle set PRs in the mile, 5,000m and 10,000m. She also won the U.S. National 12K and the Boston Athletic Association 5K
3. Experienced hand
It has taken time for Huddle to reach her current world-class level in the 5000m, and it’s involved no shortage of trials along the way.
As a collegiate runner she completed the final mile of an indoor 5000m race in Syracuse, New York, with a broken foot. In one of her first Diamond League races in Stockholm 2008, she naively went out with the lead pack at world record pace. Her race dramatically unravelled in the final 2km and she was lapped outdoors – by Meseret Defar, who ran the second fastest race in history – for the first and only time in her career.
Yet by 2010 she had matured as an athlete. That year she dipped below 15min for the first time and later set a US record for the distance in Brussels.
“In Paris [her first ever sub 15-minute race] I went with the flow of the race and did not get too psyched out when I went through 3km in my 3km PR,” she says.
“With 1km to go, the lead pack took off and that was the hardest part of the race. You have to hold it together when you are by yourself and trying to achieve a time goal.”
4. Manage the pain
Make no mistake, the 5000m hurts. So to mask the pain, Huddle will play “mental tricks” to distract her from the physical grief.
“I like to write out all my splits that I want to hit, so I know I need to focus on the next 70sec,” she says. “I also try some kind of sports psychology tactic of having one word in my head for the duration of the race – like ‘strong’. When I set my US record in Monaco it was ‘ferocious’.”
Sixth place in Moscow was the highest any American female has ever finished in the event at a world champs
5. Coach and training
To run a US record demands quality coaching and the right training ingredients. Huddle believes her coach, Ray Treacy, is a master at preparing athletes for the 12-and-a-half lap distance.
“I find him to be a great 5km coach,” she explains. “The 5000m is a very VO2 Max event and he does a lot of VO2 Max intervals. He works everyone in the group, even the marathon runners, on doing something faster all year. That and the way he structures his programme to put in extra rest days here have helped me reach a whole new level.”