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New York Mini 10K (women only)
Molly Huddle, 29, of Providence, R.I., scored a huge victory in the Oakley New York Mini 10K in New York’s Central Park, Sat., June 14, as she won the race in an American record 31:37 (for a women’s only road race).
In the process she decisively beat one of strongest fields in the history of the race.
In outrunning Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska, last year’s winner, she also became the first American to win this historic and hugely popular all-women’s event since 2004 – there were 5,595 finishers in this year’s race.
Her time on Saturday was one second better than Mary Decker Slaney had run in an all-women’s race in 1984. The fact it was Mary Decker Slaney’s record that she broke on Saturday led Huddle to comment afterwards: “That’s something that makes it even more prestigious.”
Molly Huddle has long been regarded as one of America’s finest 5000-meter runners – she holds the American women’s record in the 5000, 14:44.76, set in Brussels, Belgium in 2011. Now that she has performed with such tenacity and brilliance against some of the very best African runners as she did in New York City on Saturday, she now has to be regarded as a major factor on the roads and the longer distances, too.
Unawed by the outstanding African runners in the race (Daska, for one, fully expected to repeat her victory of last year and she ran like it), Huddle almost literally jumped into the lead at the start.
“I wanted to see how comfortable I felt,” the former Notre Dame star said later – and she apparently felt comfortable enough to tow the field through a 5:03 first mile on the long uphill stretch on Central Park West. It was a pace that dropped everyone except for Daska and Kenya’s Linet Masai, who had won this race in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Not far behind after the first mile were Britain’s Gemma Steel and Buzunesh Deba, an Ethiopian based in New York City.
Going into the short, steep hills in the second mile, Daska began a series of attacks designed to separate herself from her two companions at the front. Huddle and Masai looked under duress (Daska pushed the second mile in 4:58), but they maintained contact.
“I toughed it out,” Huddle said later. “I beat her (Daska) in the Boston 5K in April, and I knew she’s not comfortable to leave it to a finishing kick. So I hung (with her). I was conscious of the American record, and knew if I could hold around 5:05 miles, I could gain some time in the last 800.”
Daska eased her pace on the long downhill to Harlem as the leaders approached halfway in the race, with the result that Steel and Deba soon rejoined Daska, Huddle and Masai at the front (the third mile was run in only 5:12, and they hit the 5K in 15:13 – an exceedingly fast 15:13 en route to a 10K). American Amy Hastings, who also trains in Providence, R.I., was now only five seconds back.
However, for Daska, this was only a lull before the storm she was about to unleash. In the fourth mile, on the biggest hill in the race, she attacked again. Steel and Deba were soon dropped.
As the Ethiopian powered the uphill to the Central Park Reservoir, her effort resulting in a 5:13 fourth mile, run mostly uphill, it was Masai, the tall, slender, lithe former world 10,000-meter track champion (at age 20!), who faded. In fact, she lost her grip on the pace so much that Steel, who thrives on hills, soon passed her.
It was now strictly down to Daska and Huddle, in a head-to-head battle pitting an American against one of Africa’s best – and how long has it been since anyone had seen something like that this late in a big-time road race.
Daska went on the attack still again in the fifth mile, which was covered in 5:01, but Huddle, running with her quick stride, stayed right beside her, “toughing it out” and waiting for the moment of truth at the end. The American, with her closing speed, was now becoming an increasingly dangerous adversary for Daska, and Huddle was beginning to demonstrate it as she began to try to open some space between them as they ran the tangents on the turns. Approaching the last 800, there were still together, only a stride apart.
“Ideally I was going to wait till 400 (to go),” Huddle said later, “but when I felt her drift (fall slightly back), it was the moment.”
Now Huddle attacked, and suddenly it was all over as she moved away decisively. The sixth mile had been run in 5:07 – and when Huddle crossed the finish line in 31:37, she had 12 seconds on Dasku.
“This record means so much to me,” Huddle summed up her feelings later, “and it’s especially great to do it with Deena here, still running so well” – a reference to the great Deena Kastor, now 41, who handily won the Masters competition as she ran 33:17 to finish 11th overall. Incidentally, Kastor had been the last American to win this race, back in 2004, when Molly Huddle was still a teenager.
Huddle also said of the race, “It was a challenging course, and it was humid.”
Gemma Steel, a 28-year-old cross-country specialist who enjoys the hills (if any runner can be said to “enjoy” hills), finished third in 32:11. It was the second consecutive year she had finished third in this race, but she ran significantly faster this year.
Posing in the Union Jack flag after the race, she enthused, “I ran nearly a minute faster than when I was third last year.”
Linet Masai, who’s still only 24, finished fourth in 32:16, Buzunesh Deba, who’s 26, was fifth in 32:20, and Amy Hastings, who, like Mamitu Daska, is 30, finished sixth in 32:33.
By way of comparison, Daska’s winning time last year had been 31:47, so she was only two seconds slower this year. The course record for this race is 30:29, set by Morocco’s Asmae Leghzaoui in winning the 2002 New York Mini 10K.
Mamitu Daska, who recently won the Bolder Boulder 10K and ran so aggressively and indeed heroically on Saturday, putting in surge after surge and using every hill and turn in hopes of breaking Huddle’s strength, spirit and resolve, said through an interpreter afterwards that the race had been a “ferocious contest.” She added, “I thought I could win.” That, of course, is the way a champion is supposed to think.
Incidentally, if you’re wondering, the American women’s record for 10K on the road in a mixed race (both men and women competing) is 31:06, held by Lynn Jennings since 1990.
As the first-ever road race exclusively for female participants, the “Mini” has a loyal cadre of followers who feel an almost religious devotion to an event that has come to symbolize the journey of women’s running from obscurity to dominance.