Raising Her Own Bar: Interview With Molly Huddle

Molly Huddle is shown during her winning effort at the B.A.A. 5K this year. Photo: www.photorun.net

The 29-year-old discusses her recent American record in Monaco, her future plans and more.

Last week at the Diamond League meeting in Monaco, Molly Huddle did something runners dream about: She broke her own American record in the 5,000 meters. The 29-year-old clocked a 14:42.64 to finish as the top American in sixth place. The previous mark was 14:44.76, which she set in 2010.

Huddle, a 10-time All-American at the University of Notre Dame, is coached by Ray Treacy, who leads the Providence College cross-country and track & field teams. Last month, Huddle won the U.S. 5000m title in Sacramento in a thrilling finish against rival Shannon Rowbury.

We caught up with Huddle a few days after her performance in Monaco.

Congratulations on your race in Monaco. How does it feel to break your own record?

Thanks. I’ve been hoping to lower the record for a couple years. I felt like this year, I had a shot. But you have to have a little bit of luck with the conditions and the pace. So I just felt surprised, actually, because it all came together. I just knew it was something I could expect if I was in good shape.

Did you say you were surprised?

I was. I have to say that I didn’t feel that good going into that particular race. I just remember in 2010, I felt really great. I knew in Monaco that I wanted to take advantage of having a 5K there. I don’t think they’ve ever had one there for the women. I was hoping for the best, but I was kind of worried about it beforehand.

When during the race did you know that you were going to break your own record?

I had figured out what splits I needed to hit. At 3K, I saw that we were at 8:50 and I knew that if we came through at 8:53 or so I would have a chance if I closed well. At 3K, I didn’t feel all too bad. I thought I had a good shot, and then about two laps to go, I thought I could do it. At that point, the only question was if I could be the first American to cross the line.

RELATED: Record-Setting Win For Huddle At NY Mini 10K

So if you look back at when you first broke the American record in 2010 and now when you broke your own record this year, how are you different as a runner and how are you the same?

I do feel that I am fitter now than I was back in 2010. That record was more of a surprise. I was hoping to break 15 minutes this year by the end of the summer, but I didn’t think I would break it by that much. I think I was running on fresh legs, adrenaline and excitement. In a way, this year was like 2010 in that it was an off year. I didn’t need to peak for specific races. It gave me the freedom to take risks. I spent this year similar to 2010. I spent my spring at altitude. I wasn’t injured all year, which is a first since 2010. So this year kind of mirrored that year a little bit.

Has your mileage stayed the same since 2010? Or are you doing more mileage now that you are a seasoned runner?

I’ve ramped it up a little bit in terms of mileage from last year to this year. I trained a lot with Kim [Smith] and Amy [Hastings] last year. I didn’t do the long runs, but I pretty much did everything else with them. I think that really helped. I did the 12K last November. I know that I responded really well to that. Going forward, I’d like to get into good 10K shape, get strength work in and then try the half marathon. So I think training with the longer stuff this year helped.

You set a 10K PR this year, right?

Yes.

Did you say that you will be moving up in distance to the half marathon?

Yes. I think next year I want to qualify for the 10K for the world championships, mostly because there is no prelim, which, for me, means I tend to not recover well from the prelim into the final.

RELATED: Huddle Edges Rowbury For U.S. 5K Title

How is your relationship with Coach Treacy?

It’s good. He gives us a long leash for the post-college girls. The college team is his first priority. When I’m in Providence in the spring and fall, he will come out to the workouts if he can. Sometimes I do that when he’s not watching. But we check in afterwards. But he’s really good, giving me a gameplan before hand. He’s really good at giving us something simple, but also useful. He lets us take care of a lot of things for ourselves. He doesn’t write a plan for lifting. If we are at altitude, we have to tweak things for ourselves there. It’s been good. He’s definitely figured out what works. It helps guide me during my season as well.

Along the lines of simplicity in running, I read your Twitter feed recently and you re-Tweeted something from Kim Smith that said Ray was an “old-school college coach.” What does that mean? Does that mean you aren’t over-analyzing races? What does “old-school college coach” mean to you?

What it means is that the schedule is pretty simple. We don’t have complicated workouts. We just do the basic 3-4 types of reps, the tempo run, and the long run with relatively high mileage. There are no drills; there is no core or lifting—any of that. I do put a little of that in myself, but from my standpoint you just need to be fit from running to be good at running. [She laughs.] That’s 90 percent. The other things are 1 percent things that add up. He is smart with that.

So then you aren’t doing heart rate workouts?

[Laughs.] No. We aren’t doing any of that. I don’t think Ray knows any of our V02 max.

How often do you see your coach in person?

In the summer, he does almost all our workouts. In the fall, I see him once a week. In the winter, not much at all, because I go away.

You’ve had a month to reflect on the race with Shannon Rowbury at the U.S. Championships, where you won at the wire. What do you think you learned there?

It gave me a bit of confidence in my racing tactics, which are usually my weak point. I learned from last year’s USA’s when I ran against Jenny [Simpson], who is also a 1500m runner and has a great finish. I think I kicked a little hard a little too early in that race. So I learned from the race and tried to measure my kick a little bit better. I think it paid off. I tried not to go 100 percent and save something for when Shannon kicked in the last 200. I surprised myself. I didn’t think I could close with a 1500m runner like Shannon. It just shows you that if you have strength instead of speed, you just alter your tactics.

RELATED: Huddle Wins .US 12K Championships

Where would you like to be in 2016?

I hope to be on the U.S. team. I don’t know what event—possibly the 10K. I don’t know if I’ll have a handle on the marathon if I try it. I don’t know if I’ll have the experience that you need, so I think it will be the 5K or the 10K.

But is the marathon a possibility?

I’d like to try one for sure in this next year or two.

So then I’m sure you’ll be asking Kim Smith a lot of questions about the marathon.

Definitely.

Now that it’s transitioning to late summer, what are your plans for the fall?

I think I’m just going to do a bunch of U.S. road races. I don’t think I’m going to go back to Europe for the second half of the [track] season. I’m not sure if a marathon is going to fit in with this fall. The main focus for next year will be the world championships. Ray has a really great plan for us this fall. We’ll be doing a lot of thing we did last year—a lot of strength stuff. The road races fit in nicely with that. I’ll probably do the 12K [U.S. 12K Championships] in November, and I’ll probably do the B.A.A. Half in October.

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