Q&A with 2X Olympian Molly Huddle: Everything You Need to Know About Her PVD Fall-Comers 5k XC Team Challenge!
First off, tell us about your race – who, what, where, when…all the details!
The race is a cross country 5k in Providence, RI at Roger Williams Park Temple to Music Field on October 15th at 9:00 am. All proceeds from the event will go to supporting Rhode Island Middle School track and XC programming through the New England Distance Project. Providence was forced to cut public middle school sports several years ago due to budget cuts, but NE Distance, with funding from its supporters, was able to restart the cross country teams three years ago. Since then, they have introduced over 1,000 kids to the sport of running! The kids really love having a chance to run, race and be coached by our talented post college athletes, so we want to keep the program going!
I always had fun racing cross country (races traditionally run over grassy, hilly courses for those unfamiliar with it) not just for the challenging terrain, but also because of the team scoring element which gave me extra motivation. For this race, you compete individually or as part of a 4-person team, so for people who haven’t had the chance to race on an XC team this will be fun! I’m especially interested to see how the coed teams stack up as there will be a men’s team category, a women’s team category and also a mixed men’s and women’s team category, which is unique!
When did you decide you wanted to do this? Was it a spur of the moment decision or have you been planning this for a while?
This race has been in the works since June, which isn’t that long, but I had been wanting to have a community event for the last two years and only just now was able to put it together. It will be on the smaller side this year but hopefully it will become bigger and better in the future!
Many people choose to put on a road race as a way to give back to their community and fundraise for a great cause. What made you decide to do a cross country race instead?
I do love road races – it’s where I was first introduced to the sport – and I may one day pivot to that, but I decided on an all-comer’s XC race because team cross country was always one of my favorite experiences as a collegian and pro. Most runners haven’t had many chances since high school or maybe college to have that XC team experience of racing in the crisp fall weather over mud and grass or of racing to lower the team score, so I was hoping to bring that fun element to the run. I also wanted to mix up the way teams are assembled; there are no age groups for the teams and, with the coed team option, you can race on a team with any friends or family that you want! There will also be that extra vested interest in where everyone finishes because we have some cool prizes on the line!
Your senior year of high school you ran cross country for the first time as a one-person team for Notre Dame High School. What was it like competing by yourself in New York, which is arguably the most competitive state in the country when it comes to cross country?
It was an unusual experience to race as a one-girl cross country team. Though I was used to being solo in track and really enjoyed and was challenged by the cool NY State cross country courses, I was’t able to have the team aspect that cross country is about! That senior season of XC definitely made me a stronger runner as a whole and it translated to the track. New York State is consistently one of the most competitive states when it comes to XC and track (often having teams like Fayetteville Manlius win national titles) so being pushed at that level all year really made me better.
Contrast your high school experience with your experience competing in the NCAA as part of a full cross country team while at the University of Notre Dame.
Competing on a team at Notre Dame was amazing. We were third in the country at NCAA’s my freshman year and I remember being really excited and motivated by the women I had trained beside and befriended that year. It was unlike anything I had experienced in high school or on the track. It was great to have that team camaraderie I had missed since my younger team sport days. I found that every year we would get the most out of ourselves in November because we didn’t want to let each other down, and the team successes we achieved were super fun to share together. I still have good memories from that season!
Photo credit to Photo Run and Milesplit.
What is your all-time favorite cross country memory?
I think that NCAA XC third place team finish ties for favorite with the first time we medaled as a US team at World Cross Champs in Poland in 2010. Obviously World’s was harder to do, but I trained with my college teammates every day all season so it was pretty meaningful for us to snag third as a close knit group!
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is about to run their first ever cross country race?
Throw times out the window! The courses are uniquely challenging in cross country so you will naturally be a bit slower for a higher effort level. Also, you may need to slow down for some of the untamed parts of the course!
And finally, how could someone who maybe can’t come and physically take part in the race still help out and contribute to the cause?
Great question! There is a donation option on the registration page – any amount helps to offset the cost of hosting the race and therefore further supporting New England Distance and the RI Middle School teams! We are also still open to partnering with any businesses from a sponsorship standpoint at a wide range of levels. Finally, spreading the word to fellow runners in the Rhode Island area or e-mailing me about volunteering on race day would be hugely appreciated!