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“My whole career I’ve been like, what’s next?”: Molly Huddle on Preparing for the 2021 Boston Marathon

The two-time Olympian has been focused on injury prevention in her build up to Boston.

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Molly Huddle watched the Tokyo Olympics from a new perspective: on TV, in her Providence, Rhode Island, home. 

Huddle, a 28-time national champion, hadn’t seen the Games broadcast on screen since 2008, because she was too busy competing in them. 

In London in 2012, she finished 11th place in the 5,000 meters, running 15:20.29. And in Rio in 2016, Huddle placed sixth in the 10,000 meters, running 30:13.17 to set an American world record, beating Shalane Flanagan’s previous record by nine seconds. 

Ahead of this year’s Games, Huddle was sidelined by a lingering hip injury that prompted her to withdraw in advance from the 10,000 meter Trials in June; she also dealt with injuries in the lead-up to the February 2020 Marathon Trials, which she dropped out of. 

But Huddle’s been keeping busy, co-hosting a podcast she launched in 2019 with fellow Olympic runners Alysia Montano and Roisin McGettigan and working on a book with middle- and long-distance runner Sara Slattery, due out early next year. And earlier this month, Huddle announced she’ll return to compete in the rescheduled October 11 Boston Marathon—which includes a stacked American women’s field, featuring 2018 champion Desiree Linden and Jordan Hasay—after running the rain-soaked 2018 race in 2:50:28, placing 16th.

Women’s Running caught up with Huddle to discuss her highlights from the Tokyo Olympics, how she’s preparing for Boston, why people keep getting her confused with Molly Seidel, and why she thinks writing a book is harder than running a marathon. 

Women’s Running: First off, how are you doing? How is your injury recovery going and what is that looking like?

Molly Huddle: I’ve been back up to 90 miles a week the last four weeks. That’s not quite as high as I’d like to be for a marathon. So we’re still kind of managing the foot and ankle stuff. If you have something wrong with your ankle it kind of goes all the way up the chain. So that’s kind of what has been frustrating the whole year, trying to get that to feel smooth at workout pace. Getting the volume in is not as hard, it’s more just workout pace is affected by it. So we’re hoping the marathon, being a little slower, would be a little bit better for that, but it’s still kind of touch and go. 

WR: Can you talk about the decision to pull out of the Trials? How do you navigate making that kind of decision?

MH: It’s a hard decision, but I know exactly what I need to be doing in practice and how I need to feel in order to realistically have a certain level of performance on race day, and so I was not seeing that in practice, so I just thought I didn’t need to do that to myself—like, I know too much about myself and the sport to show up to a race half injured and limp around and have that be a memory in my career. I don’t really want to do that at this level. So it was disappointing but [the decision] was very obvious to me. 

RELATED: Molly Huddle Scratches From the Olympic Trials

WR: What was your Olympic viewing experience like: where and with whom were you watching?

MH: I was mostly watching with my husband [Canadian middle distance runner Kurt Benninger]. We are very big track nerds. We tried to watch a lot of it live, as much as we could … so our two weeks were dominated by track scheduling. 

WR: How did you feel watching it from afar?

MH: That was kind of weird. I guess the last time I did that was 2004 and 2008 … it was kind of interesting being on the other side of it after the last many years being there in person. You get to see more. I usually am in kind of a bubble [at the Olympics]. I think most of the athletes are just focused when they’re there, so you miss a lot and try and come home and catch up on the results. So that was kind of fun, to be a spectator in that way.

WR: Did you have any favorite moments or standout races?

MH: Oh gosh—well the women’s marathon, for sure … it’s always exciting when you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m rooting for someone and it’s getting better and better as the race goes on.’ So to see [bronze medalist] Molly [Seidel] up there for so long was really cool. I was obviously invested in the women’s 10K, cheering for [training partner and 10th place finisher] Emily [Sisson], and that’s my event. The women’s 800 was so exciting too, just like having followed [gold medalist] Athing [Mu] all year. And the men’s 1500 was just really exciting too—you felt like any of those guys could have been in any of the top three spots the whole last lap. [The] 400 hurdles for the women … every time they raced this year, it was exciting, and the Olympics were even more exciting. 

WR: you posted an Instagram story saying that people were confusing you with Molly Seidel.

MH: Yes!

WR: How’d that happen?

MH: It’s still kind of going on. I keep getting a few messages that are like, ‘Good luck in New York, Molly,’ or ‘Great job at the Olympics, Molly.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, wrong Molly.’ 

I think some of it is, they type in ‘Molly’ first, and I come up first because she’s @bygolly.molly and I’m @mollyhuddle. But I also think some people are perhaps, like, second-tier running fans—like, they’re not full-on running fans, so they actually do think we maybe are the same person … We have a lot of similarities, to be fair. 

WR: Like what?

MH: We both ran at Notre Dame, we both do the marathon on and off, we both are skinny white girls with brown hair, we both like donuts and talk about donuts all the time. She was sponsored by Saucony until this year, so I definitely see the cross-over confusion. 

WR: You recently announced you’re running Boston this fall. What made you want to run it again?

MH: I had wanted to do it one more time, because the only other time I’d run it was the really bad weather year in 2018, and so I definitely wanted to give it another shot … I love doing U.S.-based majors, and I was originally thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll do Chicago for a fast time’ … I committed to this a long time ago, so I was thinking, ‘Well, if the Trials and the Olympics happen for me, that would be a tight turnaround,’ so I thought Boston would be fun to try one more time, especially in the fall, and that should be a good weather weekend—not to jinx anyone—so yeah, I decided to go back. 

WR: How did you feel sharing that news, especially after coming off of the other announcement about pulling out of the Trials?

MH: We announce these things so far out—there’s a lot of work ahead, and a lot has to fall into place, but I always like having enough target on the calendar. So we hope we took enough time off to patch this up … my whole career I’ve been like, ‘What’s next?’—whether it’s a disappointing race or a good race, it’s always, ‘What’s next,’ so it was good to be able to have a ‘next’ lined up. 

WR: How is training going? How do you train for a marathon with injury prevention in mind?

MH: I’ve just been keeping up all the appointments—I see a chiropractor, a physical therapist, a massage therapist, and I’ve been getting some shock waves on the tendons. So I have probably, like, four appointments a week, which is a lot. I’ve been doing that for like a year, and then that hopefully can kind of get me through the training load. And then I’m trying to adapt the training load a little bit, to do what I can handle more. So it is a little less mileage, and then just kind of see what happens from there. 

RELATED: Americans at the 2021 Boston Marathon: Molly Huddle and Jordan Hasay Join 2018 Champ Des Linden

WR: What are the best and worst parts of shifting from 10K to marathon training?

MH: I think it just takes a couple weeks to get up to that long run, that’s hard, but once you do it’s kind of fun. So I did get to the 20 miler last week, and I was like, ‘Oh, it didn’t feel that bad, whereas 18 felt terrible three weeks ago,’ so that was kind of cool, to cross that threshold of fitness … it’s hard just having to do more volume, because if you don’t feel good or you are, like, a little limpy in a workout, it’s going to be a long one—whereas on the track, you kind of get a little more of a break, it’s a little shorter … I had a workout the other day where I was like, ‘You’re going to finish this, it’s just going to be long.’ You just have to remind yourself halfway through it. 

WR: And for Boston, I imagine you’re adding in some hills?

MH: Yeah, I do want to try and run on the course a little bit—I did last time, on my buildup, do three or four runs up there, and my physical therapist is actually a mile and a half from the start line, so that is convenient … but I actually live in a pretty hilly area of Rhode Island, so any run I do here from my door is pretty hilly for those easy days. So I’ll do that, every other long run I’ll add some hills—I don’t want to do it for every one—but it’s definitely easy to find them around here. 

WR: I know you’re also working on a book. Can you share what it’s about and what drew you to working on that project?

MH: I’m writing it with Sara Slattery, another running friend that I have, and she now coaches at Grand Canyon University, so when I train in Arizona I always run with Sara a lot and see her a lot, and she had this idea to write this book that is basically along the lines of what I try to do with the podcast … to tell stories of women track and field distance runners over the last many decades and how they had long, healthy relationships with the sport. 

RELATED: College Coach Spotlight: Sara Slattery

We just feel like there’s a lot of conversation around that, stemming from things like Mary Cain’s op-ed in the New York Times, and Sara as a coach and me as an athlete, [we] do see and remember girls along the way that just stopped too soon or had some unhealthy relationship with running, or a really abusive coaching relationship. There just seem to be these pitfalls that girls face in the sport, so we were like, ‘Let’s try and show what these women did to get through it, what advice they have’—so it’s part inspiration, sharing their stories, but also the front of the book is kind of a guide, from nutritionists, sports psychology, just those basic pillars that you need to be healthy in the sport. So we do give that actual information, and then kind of more anecdotal stories later on. 

WR: Which one’s harder: writing a book or training for and racing a marathon?

MH: I think I’d say … maybe the book, actually, because it’s not as natural to me as the running stuff. You can only run so many hours in the day, but you could work on this a lot of hours in the day. 

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