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Huddle Wins .US Champs, Sets 12K World Best

Huddle and Flanagan notched the two fastest 12K road running performances in history.

Huddle broke Deena Kastor’s 2006 12K record and Lineth Chepkurui’s 2010 world best time.

(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Ten kilometers into the 12K .US Road Running Championships here this morning, time seemed to stand still for Molly Huddle and Shalane Flanagan. Their ponytails bobbing behind them, the two national record-holders ran side by side through the quiet streets of this picturesque Washington, D.C. suburb. Eyes always focused ahead, they almost seemed frozen in place.

But their pace was anything but glacial. Alerted the day before about Deena Kastor’s American record of 38:24, the pair saw a rare opportunity to set a national record in a national championships on the final day of their competitive seasons. After leaving the rest of the field far behind while flying through the first 5K in 15:42, Flanagan led by half a stride and knew it was going to be a special day.

“I thought, if we keep this up it’s really fast,” Flanagan told Race Results Weekly after the race. “Whoever can hang tough and keep this pace up, will run really fast.”

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Indeed. Huddle and Flanagan ran just over three minutes per kilometer for the final 2K, notching the two fastest 12K road running performances in history: 37:50 for Huddle and 37:58 for Flanagan. Not only did they shatter Kastor’s record, but also Lineth Chepkurui’s Association of Road Running Statisticians’ world record of 38:10 from the Lilac Bloomsday Run in 2010 (the IAAF does not ratify 12K world records).

In essence, the race for the $20,000 winner’s check was only two kilometers long. After the 10K mark, a nervous waiting game began as they made the right turn onto the long straightaway on Fairfax Street in the 11th kilometer. They knew they were going to get Kastor’s record, but who should make the first move for the win?

“I just didn’t know how much Molly had left because it’s an unknown distance for her,” Flanagan explained. “For me, I’m rounding into shape; I really didn’t know how fit I was.”

In the 11th kilometer, Huddle put in two surges to test Flanagan, and she covered both of them. But after turning left for the short downhill on Gibbon Street just before the finish straight, Huddle hit the gas, hard, and opened up her first serious lead. Before that point she had been holding back.

“I was trying to save a little bit in case Shalane dropped a hard mile,” Huddle said. “I knew the race would start with maybe two miles to go. I felt pretty within myself. But, like Shalane said, 12K is kind of an unusual distance for me so I didn’t know if the bottom would drop out at any point.”

It didn’t. With the early morning sun reflecting off of the Potomac River on her right, Huddle eased away from Flanagan in the final 300 meters on North Union Street. Not only did she win the race, but her victory gave her 45 USA Running Circuit points, assuring her of the overall series title and an additional $6000. It was Huddle’s second national road running title this year; she also won the 5K last September.

Both Huddle and Flanagan acknowledged that their fast times today were only possible because they had run together and pushed each other. Their mutual admiration was readily evident, and they were clearly enjoying themselves.

“I’m taking some credit for Molly’s record,” Flanagan teased. “I was a good rabbit for her.”

Behind them Laura Thweatt put in a strong performance to take third in 39:15. The former Colorado Buffalo said it was the best race of her nascent pro career.

“That was my breakout race,” she said beaming. “I’m so happy.”

Olympian Kim Conley finished fourth in 39:29, and Kellyn Johnson rounded out the top-5 in 39:48. The USA Running Circuit points leader prior to the race, Mattie Suver finished 16th.  A total of 25 women completed the race out of 26 starters; Lindsey Scherf was the only dropout.