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Republished with permission from Believe I Am blog by Roisin McGettigan-Dumas
Molly Huddle is one of the country’s top distance runners, an Olympian, an U.S. record holder, 21-time national champion and has finished fourth at the world championship. In other words, she’s a badass athlete. But when I asked Molly whether her claim to fame was her success in running or her viral campaign to get a #RunnerGirlEmoji created, she said it was probably the latter. She admits she’s surprised by her newfound status as the emoji queen but also welcomes it—she loves emojis!
In this interview Molly shares some revealing insights into her competitive mindset, her nervous thoughts and the remarkable adaptability of running.
What’s the hardest thing about being a professional athlete and competing?
Molly Huddle: I find it hard to deal with the pressures of an important event in the days and hours leading into it. It’s hard to find that balance between preparedness/wariness and confidence/unflappability.
What’s the most underrated element of training and competing?
MH: I’d say consistency is an overlooked cornerstone to successful racing because it isn’t very interesting. It doesn’t photograph well or make an exciting story and can be adversely affected by always testing new trends or changing programs too often. Breakthroughs can seem like dramatic moments but are often supported by a few years of uninterrupted work and gradual progress just waiting for the right moment to solidify.
How important is recovery?
MH: Recovery is important in preventing the injuries, illnesses and fatigue that can hinder the fitness you worked so hard to build. I found it hard at first to admit the level of recovery I actually needed, but saw pretty immediate PR’s and improved workouts once I committed to easier recovery runs and an extra day of rest between workouts.
How you do you recover?
MH: I recover with one easy run of under an hour. It’s a good day to take the scenic route and not worry about pace. (Note: Molly recovers with me on her easy days. I take my role of “pacer of easy runs” very seriously!)
How and when do pre-race nerves show up for you?
MH: For me, pre-race nerves usually show up as one of two things: strange ailments or last-minute doubts about whether the plans I made during more sane times included enough of the right kind of work to get the job done. I try to look to people close to me for reassurance and remind myself that my judgements are clouded by nervousness right then.
Have you ever said ridiculous things to yourself before you race due to nerves/pre race anxiety? Can you share an example of something you’ve said? How did you ignore/deal with these nervous thoughts?
MH: Having a secret flare for the dramatic before important races, I have told myself everything from, you will lose, to you will drop out, to you are dying. As catastrophic as they sound, I realize they are just the product of nervous synapses firing off gibberish in my brain, so they come and go quickly and I don’t put much stock into them. I try to match each one with an equally outlandish positive thought.
What’s the best part of running?
MH: The best part of running is that once it’s part of your routine, it can be whatever you need that day: competition, camaraderie, reflection, health, transportation!
What’s the best part of competing?
MH: Competing can be scary because it involves risk and vulnerability; everyone lines up and agrees to go to a breaking point, so sometimes you end up as one of the broken ones. But the best part of competing are the times you agree to go to a breaking point and end up pushing back what you thought were limits.
What’s it like to have a breakthrough race? Can you describe the feeling?
MH: A breakthrough race feels like validation of all the hard days, attention to detail and difficult decisions made along the way. It’s like suddenly being able to zoom out on a map and see not only are you not lost, but you’re actually headed somewhere better than you had imagined.
Good luck Molly!
Molly Huddle lives and trains in Providence, RI. She will compete at the Olympic Trials on Saturday at 11.04 a.m. PST in Eugene in the 10,000 meters with the goal of making her second Olympic Team. More blogs about Molly here and here.
Roisin McGettigan-Dumas, is an Olympian, sports psychology coach and the co-author of Believe Training Journal (VeloPress), available for order now.