It Wasn’t Even Close
To put it simply, Molly Huddle dominated at this morning’s USATF 5K Championship. From the moment the professional women’s race started, she was leading the pack–a pack that included serious contenders Brenda Martinez, Molly Seidel and Desiree Linden, all of whom eventually finished in the top 10. But it was Huddle’s race from the beginning, and after shaking fellow frontrunners Martinez and Seidel before reaching the halfway point on the course, Huddle created a gap that grew and grew until she crossed the finish line in Central Park, 11 seconds ahead of second place finisher Seidel.
Huddle, who was a late addition to the race lineup, planned to run aggressively. “The strategy is to sprint off the line and keep sprinting,” she told USATF reporters before the race. Course conditions were ideal for such a plan: though the Manhattan morning began with wind, the breeze calmed by the time the race began shortly after 8:30 a.m. EST, leaving competitors with blue skies and comfortable temperatures in the mid-40s.
The professional men’s field began running at 8:30, with the women’s field starting approximately seven minutes later. The men’s race was impossible to call until the very end–for the entire first half, the competitors stuck together, with several frontrunners battling for first at the finish line. American Tommy Curtain led for most of the race, with American 5K road record holder Ben True among those poised to take over. However, it was Kenyan-born American runner Shadrack Kiphchirchir who took home the gold with a final push that could have belonged to anyone.
Huddle’s race was different. Not only was her win not contested–the race wasn’t even close. After breaking off from the pack early on and putting distance between her closest competitors before reaching the halfway mark and entering Central Park, Huddle continued running hard to expand the gap, not letting up until she’d broken the tape at the finish line. The strong effort resulted in a sixth USATF 5K title for Huddle, as well as a new course record, breaking her own previously set course record from 2013 by three seconds with a time of 15:24. Seidel finished second in 15:35, with Natosha Rogers coming in third and Martinez finishing fifth.
“I didn’t know if I was quite there, fitness-wise,” Huddle told reporters while catching her breath after the race. “It felt good. I’m proud to win a USATF 5K title. It was a good day.” This time last year, Huddle was preparing for her marathon debut at the 2016 TCS NYC Marathon, in which she placed third. Asked about her strategy to sprint today’s race, Huddle added, “I knew with people like Brenda and Molly Seidel in the race, you can’t ease up if you’re tired.” She certainly didn’t.