When the American elite fields for the 2018 Boston Marathon came out last week, much of the hype in the women’s race revolved around Shalane Flanagan and Jordan Hasay – and deservedly so.
Flanagan is coming off the biggest win of her career in New York City. She has made four Olympic teams during her heralded career, including the past two marathon teams.
Hasay ran an impressive debut in Boston this past spring, finishing third in 2:23:00. She followed that up with another third place finish in Chicago in a blistering 2:20:57. With that time, Hasay became the second-fastest American ever, one place ahead of Flanagan and just behind Deena Kastor’s American record of 2:19:36.
With all that noted, it would be mighty foolish to count out a third woman set to toe the line in Boston – Molly Huddle.
Huddle doesn’t have the marathon experience that Flanagan does, having just one run 26.2 mile race to this point in her career. With that said, Huddle’s debut in New York in 2016, when she finished third in 2:28:13, compares similarly to Flanagan’s debut in NYC six years earlier, when she finished second in 2:28:40.
Their achievements on the track are comparable as well. Sure, Flanagan has a global track championship medal (a silver from the 2008 Olympics), a feat that has proven elusive for Huddle. That aside, Huddle has faster personals bests over 5000 meters, 10,000 meters, and half marathon.
Head-to-head, Flanagan had Huddle’s number until 2011, which makes sense since Flanagan is three years older. Since 2013, however, Huddle has beaten Flanagan in each of their six matchups, including an epic battle of the heavyweights at the 2013 U.S. 12k Championships, where Huddle edged Flanagan by eight seconds.
The Huddle vs. Hasay matchup on the track isn’t even close. Obviously Hasay has proven to be a different caliber of a runner since moving up to the marathon, but the facts still remain that Huddle has dominated Hasay over the course of their respective careers.
From 2011 to 2016, when both runners were at their peaks on the track, Huddle was undefeated against Hasay, posting a record of 9-0 in head-to-head contests.
While these are admittedly imperfect levers for comparison, what they do show is Huddle is one of America’s best distance runners ever, much like Flanagan is and Hasay will likely be if she can sustain her recent success. And when you’re trying to prognosticate runners of fairly equal caliber, anything can happen.
When that’s the case, you shouldn’t count anyone out – and certainly not Molly Huddle.