Anatomy of an American Record

In case you missed it, something pretty special happened two weeks ago in Houston: Runner Molly  Huddle set an American record at the Aramco Houston Half Marathon.

Huddle ran 1:07:25, trimming nine seconds off of Deena Kastor’s record of 1:07:34 set in 2006. En route to her historic mark, Huddle, 33, also set national road records for 10 miles (50:52) and 20K (1:03:48).

So what goes into setting a record? Here is how the stage was set for Huddle’s amazing run.

Competition. Heading into the race, it was well known that Huddle, 33 and Jordan Hasay, 26 (who finished eighth in Houston in 1:08:38) were going to duke it out in the quest for the American Record. Huddle was in top form, and Hasay, who ran 68:40 in her half marathon debut in Houston a year ago, and last April clocked a 67:55 half marathon in Prague, was definitely going to push her. Also, the field was stacked with talent, and Huddle was able to tuck in behind top African runners who were setting the pace.

Molly Huddle did everything right to set a new American record in the half-marathon.

The wheels to do it. Huddle has a 10,000 personal best of 30:13 (also an American record) which equates to a sub-67 half marathon, so she knew it was within her power to do it. Plus, she came within striking distance when she ran 67:41 to win 2016 New York City Half Marathon.

Excellent coaching and training. The Providence, Rhode Island-based Huddle is coached by Ray Treacy, a former two-time New England Cross Country Champion who is well known as a smart, distance-savvy coach. Although he believes in simplicity and a hands-off approach, he definitely has certain methods he likes to use. Treacy’s training is based on a two-week cycle, which includes one long run, a set of longer repeats, a tempo run, and a session of shorter intervals. He’ll have his runners go up to 2,000 meters for the longer repeats, and they run nothing shorter than 1200 meters. Huddle’s tempo runs were 5-6 miles. Not a believer in magic formulas or secret workouts to turn runners into record-holders, Treacy told Runners’ World, “It’s just getting the body ready to race. People put too much emphasis on workouts and times. When I hear someone say, ‘I just had the best workout of my life,’ I get scared. It probably means they just ran their race in practice. The key is being able to do huge blocks of training between races.”

Even pace. Averaging 5:08 per mile Huddle ran a remarkably even-paced effort. Even pacing and also running negative splits have both been proven to be the most efficient way to cover a distance. Huddle hit right around 15:50 at each 5K split.

Conditions. Though January in Houston can be fickle (last year’s full and half marathons were close to 70 degrees and humid) this year they lucked out. It was cool and clear, with little wind. Temperatures were high 30s at the start and mid 40s as the race progressed: ideal conditions for record-setting distance running.

So there you have it: the perfect storm to set a record. Great competition, excellent training and coaching, the wheels to do it; the discipline to run an even paced effort, and the right conditions.

Upcoming Races: Saturday, February 3, Cupid’s Chase 5K at 8:00 a.m. in downtown Georgetown. Sunday, February 4 at 8:30 a.m. Game Day 5K at 1405 Gruene Road in New Braunfels.

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