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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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Joey Mantia extends U.S. medal streak at speed skating worlds; Dutch dominance returns

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Joey Mantia ensured the host U.S. finished with a medal at the world single distances championships. Ireen WüstKjeld Nuis and Jorrit Bergsma ensured the Netherlands finished atop the medal standings.

Mantia joined Shani Davis as the only U.S. men to earn individual medals at three different editions of the championships, taking bronze in the 1500m on the last day of the speed skating meet at the 2002 Olympic oval outside Salt Lake City.

Mantia won the mass start at the last two worlds in 2017 and 2019 (and finished fifth on Sunday, after the 1500m bronze).

Mantia clocked a personal best 1:42.16 in the fifth of 12 pairs of the 1500m. It held up until Nuis (1:41.66) and countryman Thomas Krol (1:41.73) in the last two pairs.

“Was starting to think that I’m so old that I can’t time trial anymore,” Mantia, a 34-year-old whose last 1500m personal best came in 2015, told media in Utah. “Maybe there’s a little bit of hope left.”

Mantia’s medal extended the U.S. streak of making the podium at every world championships this millennium — 16 straight. The single bronze is the smallest medal output since 2000.

Full results are here.

Wüst and Nuis gave the Dutch a sweep of the men’s and women’s 1500m titles, two years after they did the same at the PyeongChang Olympics. Bergsma, an Olympic and world 10,000m champion, earned his first global medal of any color — gold — in the 16-lap mass start.

The Netherlands failed to earn any golds on the first two days of the four-day competition. The dominant Dutch, who topped the medal standings at every Olympics and worlds dating to the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, entered Sunday trailing Russia.

But Wüst began the day by clocking 1:50.92 to win the 1500m by .21 over Russian Yevgenia Lalenkova. American medal hope Brittany Bowe, the 2015 World champion who took bronze last year, finished 14th a day after taking eighth in her world-record 1000m distance.

Nuis and Krol went one-two in the men’s 1500m to tie Russia’s medal total. Then Irene Schouten took bronze in the women’s mass start to put the Netherlands ahead for good, followed by Bergsma’s capper.

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Netherlands on the board; more world records at speed skating worlds

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It took four world records from other countries before the Netherlands won its first title in an Olympic program event at the world single distances speed skating championships.

Jutta Leerdam got the dominant skating nation on the board on the third day of the four-day competition and in the ninth Olympic program event. Leerdam scored an upset over defending champion and world-record holder Brittany Bowe, the American who ended up eighth.

Leerdam, 21, prevailed despite having zero World Cup podiums to her name. She clocked 1:11.84, just .23 slower than Bowe’s world record set on the same Utah Olympic Oval last year. Bowe, who recently had her yearlong win streak snapped in the 1000m, finished in 1:12.92.

“It’s a nightmare,” Bowe said, according to media on site.

Later, the Netherlands won the men’s team pursuit in a world record 3:34.68, the fifth world record in Olympic events the last two days on the world’s fastest ice at the 2002 Olympic oval outside Salt Lake City.

Full results are here.

The world championships conclude Sunday, highlighted by American Joey Mantia defending his world title in the mass start.

In other Saturday events, both the men’s 1000m and women’s 5000m world records fell. On Friday, world records were lowered in the men’s 10,000m and women’s team pursuit.

Pavel Kulizhnikov followed his Friday world 500m title with the 1000m crown, repeating his double gold from 2016. Kulizhnikov was one of the Russians banned from the PyeongChang Olympics after he served a prior doping ban.

On Saturday, Kulizhnikov clocked 1:05.69 to take .49 off Dutchman Kjeld Nuis‘ record from last March, also set at Salt Lake City. Nuis, the Olympic 1000m and 1500m champion, took silver, 1.03 seconds behind.

Russian Natalya Voronina and Czech Martina Sablikova both went under Sablikova’s world record in the 5000m. Voronina came out on top in 6:39.02, 2.99 seconds faster than Sablikova’s record from a year ago and 2.16 seconds faster than Sablikova on Saturday.

Voronina’s time would have been the men’s world record as recently as 1993. Sablikova won the previous 10 world titles in the event dating to 2007.

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