In the .US National Road Racing Championships press conference yesterday, Molly Huddle—a three-time USA 5K Champion—called the 12K title race “a great test” at handling longer distances.
Give the woman an A+. Huddle, 29, joined Shalane Flanagan in a breakaway from the gun, then surged just past 10K to win the inaugural event in 37:49, a new world best, according to the Association of Road Running Statisticians. The previous mark of 38:10 was set by Kenya’s Lineth Chepkurui in 2010 at the Lilac Bloomsday Run.
“I’m in shock,” said Huddle, obviously stunned, in a post-race interview on the live USATF webcast.
Her triumph in the Alexandria, VA, race on a foggy 50-degree morning caps off an undefeated autumn of road racing for Huddle, who is also the U.S. record-holder at 5000 meters on the track. On September 22, Huddle claimed her third consecutive U.S. 5K title in front of a hometown crowd when she won the CVS Caremark Downtown 5K in Providence, RI, and she followed that up with a victory in the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5K on November 2.
Flanagan, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist and U.S. record-holder at 10,000 meters, finished second in 37:58, with 24-year-old Laura Thweatt, who competed for the University of Colorado, coming in third in 39:15. Flanagan’s time is also under the previous world mark. The American record of 38:24 was set by Deena Kastor in 2006.
"I'm taking some credit for Molly's record," Flanagan told Race Results Weekly. "I was a good rabbit for her."
Emily Infeld, who finished second in both the U.S. 5K championships and the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5K this fall, was a late scratch, reportedly because of a sore back.
On the men’s side, Aaron Braun missed Steve Spence's U.S. record by just two seconds, winning his first U.S. road title in 34:29. Braun, 26, led a large pack through the first mile in 4:43, then surged at the turnaround just past four miles and was the clear leader by 10K. The runner-up in 34:35 was Shadrack Biwott, who also finished in the top three in the U.S. half-marathon and 20K championships this year. He was followed by Tyler Pennel, the 2012 NCAA Division II 10,000m champion out of Western States College, who finished third in 34:37.
“I’ve been second and third so many times at these championships, so to finally cross the line first is such an awesome feeling,” Braun said, who was also third in the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5K.
Huddle and Braun each earned $20,000 for their victories. Huddle took home another $6,000 for winning the USA Running Circuit title.
Huddle and Flanagan set a brisk pace from the start, leaving the field in their wake with a 5:03 first mile. They went through 5K in 15:29, with Huddle running a step behind Flanagan and both of them already 30 seconds ahead of the pack.
“Shalane and I were just clicking off 5:05 pace, and I knew at halfway that was American-record pace,” said Huddle.
Just before the five-mile mark, Huddle pulled even with Flanagan, and by 10K—which she hit in 31:39, a personal best by 21 seconds—she was a step ahead. Flanagan’s time for 10K also shattered her road-race personal best. With about 300 meters to go, Huddle launched a kick that Flanagan, who has raced little this fall, was unable to match.
“I definitely got some strength work and mileage coming into [this race],” said Huddle, who had trained with fellow Olympians Kim Smith and Amy Hastings during their ING New York City Marathon buildup this fall. “I felt prepared,but I still hadn’t run this far in a while in a race. I’m interested to see how I do in the half [marathon] range, things a little bit longer next season. So it was a good start.”
“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