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March 28, 2017

Will Molly Huddle lower her own American Record in the 10,000m this year?

Molly Huddle currently holds the American Record over 10,000 meters, at 30:13.17, which she ran in Rio last summer and placed sixth in the Olympic final. Most pundits (this pundit included) would contend that Huddle is the only woman likely to eke out a new record during 2017 outdoor season. Huddle has been unstoppable on the American circuit for a few years now and has grand ambitions for her final season on the track. At the moment, she lacks a challenger who has even run under 31:00.

If you take a gander at the top ten all-time performances for this event by American women, you see Huddle holds the first and fifth fastest marks, then the rest of the top ten spots belong to Shalane Flanagan (six), Deena Kastor (one), and Kara Goucher (one).

Flanagan is firmly a marathoner now, and any chances of her coming down in distance this season have been rendered highly unlikely, given a recent back injury. Goucher, too, is coming off injury, and plans to race a few half marathons later this year. And though she’s claimed she won’t ever formally announce her retirement, Kastor is for all intents and purposes, out of the running for this track season. Kastor is actually slated to run a half marathon in New York City at the end of April.

So that leaves us with Huddle, who is coming off of her third consecutive victory at the New York City Half Marathon, along with a 15:01.64 indoor 5,000m in Boston, which was pretty much an uptempo workout. Her demonstrably good form right now, coupled with her impressive pedigree at 10,000m make her the obvious frontrunner to lower her own record. And with this season likely being her last focusing on the track, before jumping with both feet into the marathon, she’s liable to want to cement herself at the top of the record books (she’s already stated she’s going to attempt to reclaim the 5,000m AR from Shannon Rowbury).

Her Half result is arguably more impressive than her 5,000m time, which bodes well, as good half training is really not that different than good 10,000m training. She’ll only get sharper as she includes some 5,000m-specialized work. And if she gets down to the mid-14:30 shape required to usurp Rowbury, she could very well dip under that 30-minute barrier.

The two largest limiting factors will be: 1) her ability to get into a race fast enough to drag her there; 2) her actually racing a 10,000m, because I haven’t confirmed she actually plans to.

Check out our podcast with Huddle from earlier in the month:

But, dear readers, as the supreme NYRR-anointed Media Expert from the aforementioned NYC Half, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one or two other names who could perhaps spoil Huddle’s track farewell.

Guess who was right on Huddle’s heels in both of the races cited as proof of her fitness this year? That’s right, it’s her Providence-based training partner, Emily Sisson. She’s run 31:38.03, but that was two years ago, well before making marked improvements and running 15:02.10 (in that same controlled race Huddle ran her 15:01, looking equally comfortable), and 1:08:21 for second place (two seconds behind Huddle; sense a trend?) in the NYC Half this month.

Sisson’s a long shot to get this record, but if she continues to race stride-for-stride with Huddle, in a supremely rabbited race,it just takes her having a better lean and Huddle having an off day for it to happen. Sisson is also young so if 2017 is not the year, maybe some time down the road.

We should also at least mention another fast woman named Emily. Emily Infeld was the last American to beat Huddle in a high-profile 10,000m. She famously nipped Huddle at the line for bronze at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing. Infeld finished behind Huddle at the 2016 Rio Olympics by a considerable margin, but was also coming off of an injury-plagued build-up. If she remains healthy, she’s certainly capable of a fast 10,000m — we’ve yet to see her in top form in a non-tactical one.

But all things considered, the record’s already Huddles, and it’s hers to lower unless something really wild happens.

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