August 13 2018
Shalane Flanagan will return to the New York City Marathon course on November 4 to defend her championship title.
You may recognize the name Molly Huddle from the Olympic Games in Rio, where she broke the American record in the 10,000 meters. Or maybe you remember her as that runner who campaigned for a female runner emoji—and won! No matter your familiarity with Molly Huddle, one thing is undeniable: She’s a distance-running superstar, and she isn’t slowing down. Despite dominating in the 5K and 10K, Huddle has yet to attempt a marathon—but that’s a box she plans to tick this November in New York City.
“I would have done it a year or two earlier, but my coach saw I was getting faster every year, so he thought my strengths were on the track,” explains the 32-year-old runner, who has collected three personal bests in 2016 alone. “He wanted to keep me focused on that through a world championship year and Olympic year.”
Of course, tackling your first 26.2-miler with goals as big as “finishing in the upper top-10” just a few months after the Olympics is a tall order. However, Huddle says transitioning from four years of Rio prep to marathon training hasn’t been as difficult as you might think. In fact, she loves it.
“The actual workouts aren’t that different [from 10K training]; I’d say we just adjust the pace a bit and maybe add a few miles,” Huddle explains. “But the long run for me is just a new thing. We kind of treat it like a ‘workout’ now [to prep for the marathon], so that’s a new approach.”
Huddle has been racing professionally for more than a decade, and, as she puts it, you “don’t get a lot of firsts at this point.” So for her, an added perk is exploring new territory for her body. “I feel like every week I get to say, ‘Okay, I’ve never run that far before. Check.’”
Understanding the inclines, downhills and turns of any marathon—especially when it comes to a “deceivingly hard course” like NYC—will also be key for Huddle. It helps that she has spectated the race the last five years. Plus, she’s run the final 10 miles, which will be a crucial stretch for her on race day on Nov. 6.
“Because it’s coming off the First Avenue bridge, you start to hear the crowd and you feel good, and a lot of people will make a move too early right there. You’re still pretty far away [from the finish],” Huddle says. “In the last 10K, I want to really be able to not just survive but race a little bit. I’m kind of going to embrace that in the last 2 miles in the park especially.”
Among fans of professional racing, there has been chatter that Huddle’s marathon debut is one of the most anticipated in U.S. history—and the Elmira, N.Y., native has big dreams to compete in the road event at the 2020 Olympics. At the same time, the runner lights up when discussing her return to the track in 2017—something she wants to do more of before leaving the oval office to put all of her eggs in the marathon’s basket.
“I like to race a lot, and with the marathon you have to pick your spots, and it’s maybe two a year. I want to get a lot of opportunities in [on the track] if I can,” she says.
Still, nothing offers a better excuse to dive into New York–style pizza and a beer like the marathon does—two things Huddle says will be her go-tos once her five-borough adventure is over. “But I have to say that’s not really a splurge, because I would eat that any time of year.”
2 or 3…How many marathons she says it will take to figure out how to race the marathon
100…How many miles she averaged a week during Olympic and marathon training
2:30…The crazy-fast time she hopes to beat in her debut
0…The number of American runners she hopes will best her in NYC
7…The seconds she missed breaking the American half-marathon record by in March