Interview: Molly Seidel After Running An American Course Record At The New York City Marathon With Two Broken Ribs
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We welcome back Molly Seidel to the podcast and I finally get to introduce her as the 2021 Olympic bronze medalist in the marathon and also now the fastest American woman to ever run the New York City Marathon.
This past weekend, she ran a personal best of 2:24:42 and finished fourth overall. The previous record was 2:25:53 set by Kara Goucher in 2008. The elite women’s race was won by Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya in 2:22:39, who became the first gold medalist to win it all in the Big Apple.
It’s very clear that Seidel has found her event in the marathon. She made the Olympic team in her debut with a runner-up finish at the U.S. Olympic Trials. In an odd, elite-only edition of the London Marathon in 2020, she ran a personal best of 2:25:13 and finished sixth overall. In her third-ever marathon, she became just the third American woman to earn a medal at the Summer Games with a gutsy 2:27:46 in hot conditions for bronze. And now, she breaks the American course record.
We touch on Molly’s run in Sapporo and New York City but also get some more details on the less-than-ideal build-up that somehow led to this incredible performance. Molly opens up about the two broken ribs she had and some of the mental struggles coming off the Games.
Thanks to everyone who submitted listener questions, we got to as many as we could in the time we had with Molly.
My co-host for this episode is David Melly, the host of Run Your Mouth which is also on the CITIUS MAG Podcast Network.
There’s some good insight in this episode and a little bit of breaking news at the very end. You can now listen to our conversation on The CITIUS MAG Podcast. Catch the latest episode of the podcast on Apple Podcasts. We are also on Stitcher, Google Play and Spotify.
I’ve transcribed a few parts of the interview below, which have been edited lightly for clarity.
What Else Can She Share About the Two Broken Ribs and Training After the Olympics
“Basically this whole build, frankly, has been a shit show...I am almost more excited for how this race went than how the Olympics went as crazy as that sounds. Just because the lesson I took away from this build is everything can go to hell in a handbasket and somehow we can still put something really cool together by just going at it and working as hard as we can with what we had. Basically, the ribs aside – which was obviously one of the defining things of the build that really impacted a lot.
Mentally, after the Games, I was not in a great place. We came off the Games and tried to go straight into a build and low key, I crashed super hard. Basically, that first week in September, we were like, ‘We probably need to pull out of New York.’ That was a really frank conversation with Jon (Green) and with my agents. I was mentally not doing well. I went back to Wisconsin. I was not running for a bit. I just needed to mentally recharge. We spent a couple of days being like, ‘OK. We’ve got to see if this is actually going to happen.’
Luckily just recharging and getting out of the mix of stuff, I was able to be like, ‘OK. I’m ready to do New York. I’m ready to train. This may not be a great build. It’s going to be short. At that point, we were seven weeks out. Crap, this is going to be really short now but let’s try and see what we can make of it.’ We get into the build. It’s going well. Mileage is going back up there. I’m excited to finally train again.
Then, a month out from New York, I sustained an acute injury, which resulted in a fracture of my 11th and 12th rib on my right side. A week after that, I actually fell hard during a training session and I sustained major whiplash along my left side. At that point, it went to absolute hell in a handbasket. I could not do anything. It was some of the most excruciating pain I’ve ever been in.
Tons of kudos to my physios that I work with in Flagstaff that they were able to get me to the point where I was able to train again. Every run hurt. Every step hurt. Every breath hurt. It was really this terrifying thing of like physically I do not know if I can even do this.
Jon was really not hot on me doing it. There were multiple times where he was like, ‘We have to pull out. We can not do this. You can not do this.’
Luckily, it was far enough out and we were able to get good enough treatment on it where I was able to get to the point where I could realistically run on it. But that was the worry. It wasn’t can I train on this? It was like physically can I even do runs right now. And It was just getting to the start like being like: Everything’s been a mess. We’ve missed a ton of workouts. We’ve not gotten in the kind of build that I want to. We need to mentally reset and be OK with this being whatever it’s going to be.
Despite everything, somehow this race turned out so much better than I could’ve imagined. I am so excited about how New York went because there were so many times throughout the build-up where we didn’t even know if I was going to make it to the line.
Why did you insist on continuing to push to race?
“There were points where I didn’t want to race. I would say probably that three weeks out or so I was just in so much pain I couldn’t do anything...So that’s the thing I was still trying to fully train through this and I missed two days where I physically could barely get out of bed. I couldn’t sleep either. It hurt to lay down at that point. I can handle a lot of pain but if it’s inhibiting my movement I don’t want to do it. Once I was able to get to the place where I wasn't physically inhibited, even if there was pain I was like, ‘I can run this. I want to run this.’
I was looking at it as my first real major. My whole family was going to come out to see it and we had invested a lot. It was overcoming that initial really deep dip after the Games. Being able to come out of that and finally get excited to train again. I overcame all that and I’m not going to let this (injury) inhibit this.
Jon was super not hot on this. The last real workout that we had going into New York, Jon was out in Flag. We actually had it out at the workout kind of yelling at each other afterward. It got to the point where we were both just crying because it was us very deeply talking about why I wanted to do this. I needed Jon to support me in that if I felt that I was physically going to be able to go out and do it. Kudos to him in that he puts a lot of trust in me to be able to make those kinds of decisions as well. That’s what it is. It’s that partnership. I needed him to be fully behind me if I was going to do this.
It was this deep down feeling that despite everything that happened in the build, I knew I was fit and I knew I was ready to run relatively fast. Jon was kind of very hesitant having seen the worst aspects of the build and being like, ‘I don’t know if you can run faster than 2:31. I don’t know if you can finish this. I don’t know if you can hang with the front group.’ I was yelling at him saying, ‘I know I can run faster than that. I know I can go out there and compete. I want to go out there and compete for a podium spot and I need you behind me in that.’”
What was Jon’s race plan for you in New York City? At the Pre-Race Press Conference, You Still Hadn’t Seen The Course Map
“That’s the other aspect of it. Jon puts a lot of trust in me to not have to make a race plan, truthfully. Because he knows that’s how I prefer to race: a little bit more dynamic and responding to it. He knows that at the end of the day I am a competitor and so I’m just going to go with whatever is happening in the race. I frankly don’t see any point in making a race plan because everything can be shot to shit in an instant. If Peres (Jepchirchir) decided to go out at world record pace, what’s the point in making a race plan?
I want to say it was maybe two days before the race where we started to actually definitively look at different aspects of the course, where the hills were going to be, what the neighborhoods were going to be. Jon was trying to plan out where to watch from. It was, ‘OK. Let’s get an idea of what the different aspects of this course will be? Where do we predict people will be making moves? Where can we be prepared in case it starts to go?’
The only definitive race plan that we knew was that based on where my fitness was – it was a black box and we had no idea. We were like, ‘We’re going to go out and try to compete in that front pack. We know Peres and Ruti Aga and Viola (Cheptoo) are at a different level of fitness right now. They are going to go at some point. They’re going to start dropping those five-minute miles to break the field apart. Realistically, I can’t go with it. But this idea is that we’re going to hang with them for as long as we can and race dynamically. When the break is made, we need to keep racing and stay engaged even if we’re in no-man’s land.’
That’s exactly what happened. We got to Mile 18. Peres made the break. They went. I just had to hang on and keep pushing as hard as I could even though it’s really hard watching the podium go away in front of you and you have to keep pushing as hard as you can and just hope that you can hang on and people behind you don’t catch you.”
On the moment on First Avenue, where she high-fived her sister and friends:
“That’s the other aspect of this. The night before the race, I was pretty mentally struggling with it and all aspects of this. I met with Emily Saul, who works as a sports psychologist through Wellness In Motion Boston and we had a 90-minute call the night before the race. We actually focused a lot on that.
I love racing. I love all aspects of it. I love going hard. I love being aggressive and making moves that people might think are dumb. But also, I love going out and just having fun with it. It bugs the hell out of me that people equate having fun with not being serious. Especially with those articles that came out about me saying, ‘Molly Seidel is having too much fun. People didn’t think she was going to finish in the Olympics.’ It bugs the hell out of me because I take this extremely seriously.
This is my life. I am fiercely competitive with this. However, I also enjoy this immensely and I enjoy every aspect of racing. I jumped and high-fived my sister in the middle of the Olympic Trials as well. People thought that was dumb as hell.
If people are saying that I’m not serious about what I do because I am enjoying myself and I am having a good time while I’m racing, I’m sorry that you guys have to be serious as hell while you race. But I’m the kind of person who is going to smile during my marathons. I’m going to give a thumbs up. I’m going to have fun with it and appreciate the aspects that are out there. I’m going to be focused and I’m going to be racing hard as hell but that doesn’t mean we have to be overly serious.
I think that’s the problem with pro running sometimes. We take ourselves so seriously and it’s like what’s the point. There’s always been this weird undercurrent in pro running. It’s always been there since the 70s. Running is quirky and strange and shouldn’t take itself so seriously. If my legacy is that I broke running and exposed some of that, I will be happy.
Did you have any idea the previous American course record was 2:25:53 in 2008 by Kara Goucher?
“Nope. Not a clue. I did not know how fast we were going. I was checking my watch at the end to know that I was staying on pace for me but I had no idea in reference to what the projected finish time was going to be. Even in races when I see Jon, he’s not overly focused on that. It’s more focused on where people are. It’s focusing more competitively than on time-based goals. The first time I found out about the record was as I crossed the line. I was obviously enormously excited. It’s super cool to get to do that but I had no frame of reference while we were racing.”
Is the American record on her mind for the next year or so?
“I don’t know if it will be within the next year. Truthfully, there’s a lot of racing opportunities over this next year that I would like to take advantage of. Not all of those coincide with running on flat, time-based courses. I’ve said this to Jon before that I don’t see myself as the kind of person who breaks records, which makes this very ironic that I broke the record in New York. It’s this focus that I have on racing and racing in the moment rather than going after times. I just think it’s funny that in this race, just being in the moment we were able to do that in the nature of how the race went.
I’m not the kind of person, even though you tweeted it, to go out and do a Marathon Project-style race. That straight up doesn’t interest me. I don’t want three pacers to just run behind. I want to be in a race. If I’m in a fast, flat marathon at some point that goes out really hard and we have the chance to go after it, sure. Maybe that will happen.
I’m not going to line up at a race specifically for the means of going after it. The thought of trying to go for an American record really does excite me but it would need to be in the midst of another race. Not something set up specifically in perfect conditions to try and get it.”
Will she accept her spot on Team USA for the 2022 world championships in Eugene?
“We’ll announce it here on The CITIUS MAG Podcast. Oh yeah, 100% I will accept my spot on the world champs team. That’s actually something I’ve been very interested in and a big goal of mine is to run the world champs in Eugene. So, yes.”
For more from Molly, be sure to listen to the full episode on the CITIUS MAG Podcast.
Listener questions include: What was she shouting while Kellyn Taylor was puking...An update on her Hinge profile…What mantras does she use when things get tough...Molly’s Formula 1 favorites...Her beer mile story…Plus more!
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That’s it from me in the latest edition of the CITIUS MAG Newsletter. As always, thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this, learned something new or have any questions or commentary on anything featured in this issue, feel free to hit my inbox by replying or writing to firstname.lastname@example.org