Last year, Molly Huddle was a step away from taking the bronze medal in the 10,000-meter at the World Championships in Beijing. But as she raised her arms to celebrate, Emily Infeld, another U.S. runner, passed her on the left, claiming the medal.
With her eyes on the finish line, Huddle didn’t see Infeld approaching behind her. The close race, and her overconfident finish, have since trailed behind her, both in slow motion video snippets and in her own head.
“It’s definitely something that’s kind of haunted me a bit for the last year,” Huddle recently told Boston.com.
Since then, Huddle has made up for the devastating loss with other successes, including first place finishes at the New York City Half Marathon and the Boston Athletic Association 5K, before sweeping the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter races at the U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon last month.
Now, nearly a year later, she’ll run the same 10,000-meter at 10:10 a.m. ET this Friday at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. While the slip-up has been on her mind, Huddle says she isn’t going to let it define the rest of her races.
“I’m definitely trying to not let it linger, and not let it make me skittish with the race or my mentality going into it,” she said. “I just ended up moving on and chalking it up to mistakes that happen in sports.”
Huddle grew up in Elmira, New York, but has trained in Providence since graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 2007. While the East Coast city doesn’t have the trails and altitude that draw many elite runners to the western part of the country, Huddle came to train with Providence College’s coach Ray Treacy, who was working with a handful of world class runners at the time.
“You really can run anywhere,” she said.
Those other team members once included two-time Olympian Amy Rudolph, who held the 5,000-meter American record before Huddle broke it in 2014. More recently, Huddle trained with Treacy in a smaller group.
Despite taking first in both the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races at the trials, Huddle has decided to only run the 10,000.
“We just chose to put all our eggs in the 10K basket, and [I’ll] run as hard I can,” she said.
The decision to run the longer distance, Huddle said, came in part because she’ll start training for the New York City Marathon this fall after returning from the Games.
When she takes the track in Rio, Huddle knows she’ll have to run her personal best to finish among the top contenders.
“It’s going to be really hard to finish in the top three,” she said. “I’m just going to run as hard as I can.”
But even if she doesn’t take home a medal, running the event again on such a large scale is a chance to rewrite the narrative from last year’s close race. Huddle is focusing on tactics and thinking about strength training, and not letting the mistake get in her head to become the defining moment in her career.
“I think in the vein of moving on, it’ll be a totally different kind of race,” she said. “A new year, a new story.”