Number Cruncher: Exclusive Interview With Molly Huddle

Did you do anything different in your workouts or mileage? Has your mileage gone up?

It’s gone up a little bit since college. I think my last two years I was running maybe 70 miles a week max. Now, maybe I do 85. It’s still not always that high. It still goes down to 70. It just kind of depends. I do more proper tempo work than I did when I was in college. In college, you race so often. You can’t really get those longer workouts in. I think that might help. My workouts are spaced out a little bit now, which I realize in college I wasn’t recovering that well in between workouts and so we tried a schedule where we have a couple days in between. We used to have one or two and now we have three. For me, that really helps. I kind of recover slowly, which I never even thought about before. But also, this year, with me being injury free, I kind of just found a really good chiropractor and physical therapist. We went away to Phoenix for the winter, and I was coincidentally staying down the street from him, so I was able to go in once a week. I’m getting a lot more into the preventative side of physical therapy. You need those little things you can do, because I’m now realizing how much progress you can make if you don’t have to take huge chunks of time off. When I was injured, I cross-trained heavily and I thought that it couldn’t be hurting me that badly, but there’s nothing like running to train for a race. It makes a big difference.

You alluded to the benefits of longer recovery between races. So what kind of recovery are you doing on your non-workout days? How many miles and what kind of pace?

I usually do two runs a day or one kind of medium-long run. I don’t really run that hard—just easy running pretty much. I’m even running a little easier on those days than I was running in the past. When you have a group of people that you really trust in their talents, you just kind of do whatever they do, so if I train with Kim [Smith], Mary [Cullen] or Amy Rudolph, I’m going to do whatever they do. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t recovering quite as well when I was running by myself. So I’m taking some tips from them.

Even though you ran 14:51 in Paris, you placed eighth overall there. You were in a tough race with superfast Ethiopians and Kenyans. Did they or do they ever intimidate you? Did that tough field help you run that fast time?

I think it definitely helps because you don’t waste any seconds. They go out hard. So you just get in the back of the pack and hang on as long as you can. You either fall off or you don’t. Even if you do, you have a little cushion for time, because you went out so hard. I definitely think it helps. It’s intimidating. The races that I’ve been in, I’ll look over and see, like, Meseret Defar on the line. I think, “Oh God.” I try not to get in her way, but you can’t really think like that even though you are not racing her, per se. You can still have goals for yourself in the race. You just have to use who’s there. There are always going to be some Kenyan girls you don’t know. But they are better than anyone in the United States. You work with them. That’s how I try to think about it.

Are you ever nervous before a race?

Yes. I was pretty nervous going into Paris, especially since they had to work pretty hard to get me into it. You always have in the back of your head that you don’t want to embarrass yourself and everyone else for fighting to get you in the race. You don’t want people saying, “she’s fit and can run fast,” and then you don’t. You then worry about all that comes with that. It was kind of a good nervousness, because it was such a cool atmosphere there. You couldn’t help but be more excited than anything. I’m usually always nervous. I was nervous before USA’s this year. I was nervous before pretty much everything.

You’re now heading back to Europe as a sub-15 minute 5K runner and are starting to knock on the door of Shalane Flanagan’s American record. Are you more confident now?

I’m definitely more confident, especially since workouts are going a little better, but I’m still waiting for the wheels to fall off or something. I can’t believe how good it’s been going. Deep in the back of my mind, I’ve been thinking, “I didn’t plan this season. I didn’t plan this many high-quality 5Ks. It’s going to blow up somewhere along the line.” I’m already happy with how the season’s gone. There’s really no pressure. If all I did was run 14:51, then that’s a good year. I can’t be happier with that, so that’s helping my mindset a little bit. I don’t know if it helps my confidence at all, but it kind of takes the pressure off, which is a good thing.

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