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On the Roads Again: New York Invites Its First Post-Pandemic Pro Field to Compete

Another sign that racing is coming back? Molly Seidel, Sara Hall, Des Linden and more will compete at the Mini 10K.

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Everything that Molly Seidel does between now and August 7 is considered preparation for the Olympic marathon in Japan. One stop on the way to the world’s biggest athletic stage? The Mini 10K on June 12 in New York—as part of the first group of invited pro runners to compete on the streets since the pandemic began in 2020.

“I love a good road 10K and this seemed like it would fit in really well into my marathon build-up,” Seidel said during a phone interview with Women’s Running.

Related: Tuliamuk, Seidel, and Kipyego Make 2020 U.S. Olympic Team

The Mini 10K, which started in 1972, is billed as “the world’s original women-only road race” and like most big events, it was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. In June, New York Road Runners (NYRR) officials are expecting 3,000 finishers as covid-19 restrictions ease—and while it’s not the typical field of about 10,000 runners, it’s a step in the right direction. NYRR also recently announced that the 2021 New York City Marathon on November 7 will return with 33,000 runners.

“The Mini 10K is one of our legacy events and one of the first large-scale running events in the world for women. It was the one thing that we were able to circle on our calendar and say, ‘this feels like home,’” said Ted Metellus, race director at NYRR. “Having this race back and being able to do it to some level of scale is awesome.”

Sara Hall wins the 2019 NYRR New York Mini 10K.
Sara Hall wins the 2019 NYRR New York Mini 10K. Photo: NYRR

The pro wheelchair division will also compete at the Mini 10K, another tune-up opportunity for the U.S. Paralympians like Susannah Scaroni and Tatyana McFadden.

Seidel will race against some familiar faces like 2018 Boston Marathon champion Desiree Linden, as well as others who plan to go on to Eugene, Oregon, to compete in the 10,000 meters on June 26, at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials—including Laura Thweatt, Emma Bates, Molly Huddle, and Sara Hall, who is the Mini 10K defending champion. Two-time marathon world champion Edna Kiplagat of Kenya is also scheduled to race.

Related: Des Linden on Ultrarunning, Vulnerability, and Doing What Makes You Happy

Seidel and Hall last faced off at the 2020 London Marathon, an elite-only event with a small group of invited athletes. Hall, 38, was second in London in a then-personal best of 2:22:01 (which she improved in December, finishing the Marathon Project in 2:20:32, becoming the second-fastest American woman ever at the distance). Seidel, 26, in her second-ever marathon (her first was the 2020 Olympic Trials, where she placed second to make the U.S. team), finished sixth in a PR of 2:25:13.

“This past year has been kind of a blessing just being able to learn so much and get in quality, consistent training,” Seidel said. “I couldn’t tell you the last time that I had this amount of steady training under my belt.”

She set another PR in February at a half marathon in Atlanta, winning in 1:08:29. After that, Seidel, who is training at high altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona, sensed it was time to give her body and mind a bit of a break, so she decided against racing the 15K national road championships in March. Part of it was due to feeling run-down after her first covid-19 vaccine, combined with a bit of exhaustion from her traveling and training load beforehand.

“When I’m really, really tired some of my biomechanical inefficiencies or injuries crop back up. We were riding a very fine line,” Seidel said. “I took two and half weeks of no running, gave myself a really nice reset and came back excited and ready to go.”

Since moving up to the marathon distance, Seidel said she’s learning to put more trust in her training program. The recovery during the spring was what she needed to gradually build back up to about 120 miles per week and feel ready to prepared for the Games.

“In the past, it was really hard being in Flagstaff because you’re seeing people doing the most insane training you’ve ever seen and there’s that constant comparison,” Seidel said. “It’s part of our sport—everybody loves the glamorous, go-hard-all-the-time stuff—but my body doesn’t work like that.”

Huddle, 36, who is currently training in Providence, Rhode Island, for the Olympic Trials 10,000 meters, dropped out of a 5,000-meter race in March and finished in 15:23.24 on May 9 at the Golden Games. The two-time Olympian has been working on her form, which she said is asymmetric from scoliosis and exacerbated by so many years of high-mileage training. In the early days of the pandemic she was also unable to get the physical therapy and treatment she needed after preparing for the Olympic Marathon Trials.

“It sounds like it should be painful, but it’s not—it’s just my extension isn’t good and my power isn’t good off that one side,” Huddle said during a phone interview. “It’s not an injury I have to take time off for—it’s just fitting in a lot more physical therapy work and chiropractic work than before. I feel like I’m ready for the Trials.”

Huddle said that although the 5K pace didn’t feel great in her last race, she is confident that her fitness is coming around and is looking forward to the 10K distance.

“I have a feeling that 10K pace will feel a lot easier because it has in training,” Huddle said. “That would be a good confidence booster.”

Related: Molly Huddle on Elevating Other Women and Finding Her Own Strength in the Process

Hall has also taken to the track to prepare for the Trials, earning the 10,000-meter Olympic qualifying time by setting a 73-second personal record of 31:21.90 on May 14 at the Sound Running meet. She’s currently training in Crested Butte, Colorado.

“Even though I feel a little bit out of my element on the track, when I’m actually out there racing, I just feel really different because of all the marathon strength that I’ve built,” Hall said during a phone interview. “So that’s been kind of fun to see that translate and it makes me excited to keep doing more and seeing how far I can go with it. I mean, I really love marathon training, so to be honest I don’t think I’ve enjoyed it as much as when I’m marathon training, but it’s been fun.”

NYRR is implementing covid-19 safety protocols to accommodate the first pro athletes it has hosted since pre-pandemic times. The elite competitors are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative covid-19 test prior to traveling to New York. The professionals will be separated from the general participants at the start and no guests will be allowed to accompany the runners. Masks will also be required at the start and finish areas.

Other U.S. women who plan to race the Mini 10K include Emily Durgin, Lindsay Flanagan, Allie Kieffer, Maggie Montoya, Diane Nukuri, and more.

“My first real race back during the pandemic, I was just overwhelmed with the sense of, ‘oh my God, I get to do this again,'” Seidel said. “I really just appreciate being able to have this in my life again and it’ll only get better with more things opening up.”