It didn’t take long for the top three female contenders in the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5K to make themselves known.
Shalane Flanagan and Molly Huddle took off from the gun, setting an early pace—4:55 for the first mile—that only Emily Infeld could match. There were no secrets in this group: Huddle and Infeld knew that they would be able to outkick Flanagan if the race came down to the final meters. And Flanagan knew that they knew it.
“I’m a marathoner,” said Flanagan, 32, who was racing in NYC for the first time since she finished second in the ING New York City Marathon in her 2010 debut at the distance. “If I wait for a kick, there’s like no prayer for me. And I’m not very fit right now, so I figured I would just run hard the whole way. I think that first mile was the faster than I’ve run in three months. I couldn’t play around with tactics.”
But the other two could: Huddle bided her time, then surged as she caught sight of the international flags lining the final stretch, breaking the tape in 15:27. Infeld, the runner-up, was given the same time. Flanagan was third, in 15:40.
Sally Kipyego of Kenya, coming back from 14 months off due to a heel injury, was fourth in 15:49.
“I didn’t want to kick until I could see the finish, because it was a pretty painful pace for me,” said Huddle. “I knew I was fit, because I’d been doing bits and pieces of Kim [Smith] and Amy [Hastings]’s workouts for the marathon. So I knew I was strong.” Huddle trains with Smith and Hastings, both of whom will be running Sunday’s marathon, under coach Ray Treacy in Providence, RI.
Infeld tried to go with her, but “really crumbled,” she said.
It was the second one-two finish for Huddle, 29, and Infeld, 23, in a major 5K race in the last five weeks. On September 22, Huddle—the U.S. record-holder at 5000 meters on the track—won her third straight USA 5K road title at the CVS Caremark Providence 5K; Infeld finished second. Infeld also finished second on Columbus Day in the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women in Boston in 31:47, one of the fastest 10K times on the road for an American woman in the last decade.
“I know how good she is,” said Flanagan of Infeld, who recently became a training partner. “And I knew Molly didn’t really take a break after the 5K, so I knew I was in the company of two really fit women. I knew that I just had to run hard and hope they would question themselves a little bit. [But] at one point in the race Emily looked so comfortable, I wanted to say, ‘Just go, Emily. You can leave me behind. I know I’m your teammate, but you can go ahead.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg