Running news feeds are flooded with the usual pre-Boston Marathon hype, but as Molly Huddle tells SPIKES, she has one simple, yet powerful prediction for the race:
"We will elevate each other"
There's history to be made on Marathon Monday. Outside of the US Olympic Trials, the 2018 Boston Marathon holds what is arguably the deepest field of US women ever assembled. For the first time ever, Shalane Flanagan, Jordan Hasay, Deena Kastor, Desi Linden, and Molly Huddle will compete over 26.2 miles with the hope of bringing home the first victory by an American woman in 33 years.
Last autumn, Flanagan became the first US woman since 1977 to win the New York City Marathon. Hasay burst onto the marathon scene with a 2:23 third-place finish at the 2017 Boston Marathon, the fastest debut ever by an American woman. Kastor owns the American record in the event and continues to shatter masters records at 45-years-old. Linden has shown her prowess on the Boston course with four top-eight finishes since earning a runner-up place in 2011.
And then there's Huddle, who enters the race with one marathon performance on her résumé – a strong third-place finish at the 2016 New York City Marathon, just two and a half months after she broke the American record in the 10,000m at the Olympic Games.
Master(s) of motivation
Huddle's race prediction falls in line with her method of gathering inspiration to combat struggles over the course of her own career. Even as a two-time Olympian with five American records and 26 national titles, Huddle says that her biggest career struggle has been staying encouraged.
A medal has eluded her so far with one fourth and two sixth-place finishes in global championship finals. But in times of doubt, she turns to the stories of other runners for inspiration – interestingly not necessarily the names you would expect.
"I always find myself watching videos from the masters track championships and thinking: they're just loving life. They're still out there and they're happy with what their body is doing for them that day. That is sport to me," Huddle explains.
Her favourite masters runner is Harriette Thompson who held the record for the fastest time in a marathon for a woman over 90. A cancer survivor who started running marathons at 76, Thompson finished the 2014 San Diego Marathon in 7:07:42 at 91 years-old. She passed away in October 2017 at the age of 94.
When she retires from professional running, Huddle says she wants to dabble in some shorter distances, and jokes that we may see her in a 400m sprint someday. We’re definitely here for that!
At 33-years-old and with the majority of her life spent running in some capacity, Huddle maintains that the best advice she's ever received came from her coach, Ray Treacy.
"It's easy to compare yourself to the people that are doing what you want to do in the sport,” Treacy once told her.
“But you're not them and your career isn't theirs. You have to work with what you have and just keep focusing on what your strengths are and what makes you good. Don't get away from what makes you uniquely good.”
For Huddle, part of her unique strength is the strong bond she and Treacy built over almost eleven years of working together. She has responded to his "old school" approach of consistent, hard workouts throughout the year with little to no breaks in-between seasons. Years of Treacy's training have turned her into a force to be reckoned with on the national and international stage.
And the numbers stack up: It's been over six years since Huddle lost to an American woman on the roads. She broke Kastor's American record at the Houston Half Marathon with a 67:25 clocking in January and easily won the USATF 15K Championships in March.
Accomplishing the impossible
Performances like her record-breaking run in Houston highlight that another breakthrough could be on the cards very soon. Reflecting on her life as a runner since high school, Huddle knows that there aren’t many of these moments in an athlete’s career.
“There will be ups and downs, but it will be worth it no matter what. Anytime you have a breakthrough and you accomplish something that you thought was impossible.
“Like the New York City Marathon. I didn't even know if I would be a marathoner, but after I passed one or two people in [Central] Park, I knew that third [place] was a good start, and it showed that I could be a marathoner.
“You get a few of those in your career, those powerful moments.”
And who knows, Marathon Monday might just become one of those.
Words: Taylor Dutch