By Barbara Huebner
Since 2014, Molly Huddle has owned the B.A.A. 5K, winning three years in a row and setting an American record in 2015. So when she went through the first mile of this flat-and-fast course in 4:46, leading the field, no one was surprised—not even Huddle.
Until she turned around.
“Everybody was still there,” said Huddle afterward. “So I was like, OK, it’s going to be a hard one today.”
She was right. Coming around the final turn onto Charles Street, Huddle and Buze Diriba—the 2012 World Junior Champion at 5000 meters who was second here last year—were running shoulder to shoulder. Dodging the men, Huddle zigged to the left and Diriba zagged to the right. About 200 meters later, the 22-year-old Ethiopian had weaved her way to victory in 14:54, a personal best by six seconds and the second-fastest winning time in the race’s nine-year history. Denied the four-peat, Huddle finished two seconds back.
“I’m definitely disappointed to not win, but that time is good,” said Huddle; her 14:56 considerably faster than two of her victories here (15:12 in 2014 and 15:14 last year). “I was hoping to run anything under 15 today.”
It was the third time Diriba had faced Huddle in this race, and her first win.
“She is very fast,” said Diriba, who has trained in Albuquerque, NM, for the past three years and is a familiar top-five finisher on the U.S. road-racing circuit. “I am very happy. I like this race.”
Finishing third was Kalkidan Gezahegne of Bahrain (15:04), while U.S. 10,000-meter Olympian Marielle Hall was fourth (15:08). Three-time Boston Marathon champion Uta Pippig, 51, finished in 21:22 to place fifth in her age group, among 8,921 total finishers in the race.
“It’s an incredible weekend to be part of,” said Hall, 25, making a rare appearance on the roads. “If you have the opportunity to compete here, you definitely take it.”
Diriba, Huddle, Gezahegne and Hall ran largely together for the first two miles, until Diriba decided to mix things up by putting in a hard surge and gapping the other three women by about five meters.
“I tried to reel her in, knowing that would at least lose everyone else,” said Huddle. “I caught her with about a kilometer to do, and I was hurting from trying to catch her so I tried to stay conservative the last kilometer and to really move when I got around the turn [onto Charles Street near the finish].”
But then the two women ran into traffic “that kind of threw us all over the place. I was thinking, ‘stay behind Buze, stay close to her.’ I should have taken the inside and just gone for it. I obviously hate to lose—[that] stings a lot more than the last five minutes you’re hurting out there.”
For her win, Diriba takes home $7,500.