Molly Huddle returns to New York City Marathon with pie-in-the-sky dream

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Molly Huddle was scared going into her first marathon in New York City in 2016, two months removed from the Rio Olympics.

“That I wasn’t ready enough,” she said last week. “My coach wasn’t sure how I’d handle the marathon, and I may have to go back to the track.”

Huddle, a two-time Olympic track runner and American record holder at 10,000m, crossed the Central Park finish line in third place two years ago.

It was a landmark result for not just Huddle, but any American. She became the first U.S. runner of either gender to make the New York City podium in six years.

Much has changed for U.S. women’s marathon running since that day. For Huddle, the difference is in mindset.

Huddle will race the New York City Marathon for the second time on Nov. 4, joining a field that includes 2017 New York City Marathon winner Shalane Flanagan and 2018 Boston Marathon champion Des Linden.

“Hopefully try and finish higher than I did before,” Huddle said. “I could go somewhere and try and run a PR, and I choose to come back to New York because, to me, that’s kind of the ultimate, pie-in-the-sky dream would be to win the New York marathon. All of my eggs are in that basket.”

Huddle did go back to the track in 2017, as planned, to race the world championships in London. The native of Elmira, N.Y., expects to enter at least one marathon per year from here through the Tokyo Olympics.

She can take motivation from Flanagan and Linden’s breakthrough victories.

Flanagan won her first marathon in New York in 2017, at age 36 in her 10th overall marathon. Linden won her first marathon in Boston on April 16, at age 34 in her 16th marathon.

Huddle is younger than both (turns 34 on Aug. 31) with much more to learn, having raced just two marathons so far.

“I would love it to be my turn,” Huddle said in reference to Flanagan’s prophetic tweet to Linden last November. “I don’t know if I’ve paid my dues yet in the marathon. I came to it late in my career, so I don’t have a lot of time to make mistakes.”

Or time for calamities like Huddle’s second marathon back in April.

It was arguably the worst weather in the Boston Marathon’s 122 editions — high 30 degrees at the Hopkinton start, 20 mile-per-hour headwinds and a downpour throughout.

Huddle slogged through it in 16th place, getting passed by elite men who started 28 minutes later.

She finished in 2 hours, 50 minutes (22 minutes slower than her New York City debut). Huddle said she wasn’t thinking clearly for the last three miles and didn’t feel normal again until an hour after the race.

“I was really confused. I couldn’t find the drinks table,” Huddle said. “They were asking me questions at the finish line, and I couldn’t answer them. Everything felt slow. I was frozen.”

It was a shame because Huddle felt fitter and more confident going into Boston than she had on an abbreviated buildup to her first marathon in New York City in 2016.

She broke the American record in the half marathon in January. She had not been beaten by another American in a road race since 2012.

“I could have not trained one step and run faster than [2:50],” in normal weather, said Huddle, who scheduled a root canal for the day after Boston.

Huddle raced a very abbreviated track season this summer, picking up her 27th national title between the track and road in the 10,000m in Des Moines on June 21.

She felt tired after and is seeing a chiropractor and physical therapist to get ready for her third marathon build-up.

Huddle has vivid memories of her New York debut two years ago.

She came off the Queensboro Bridge at mile 16 and saw a group wearing Saucony clothes (Huddle’s sponsor). Their cheers had to be for Huddle, because she was alone for more than half the race after dropping back off the early leaders’ pace.

“It felt like I was time-trialing 15 miles to the finish line,” Huddle said. “I would love to get into a marathon where I’m racing head to head.”

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

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Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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