Molly Seidel has run many loops.
Four loops on a course that passed through Atlanta during the Olympic trials when she qualified for the Olympics in her first-ever marathon in March 2020. Nineteen loops in October 2020 as part of London’s elite-only marathon that circled Buckingham Palace ( again, and again, and again). And the three loops of the Olympic marathon course in Sapporo, Japan, when she won a bronze medal.
“Doing a point-to-point gets wild for me!” she said, referring to the New York City Marathon, which she announced she was going to run this week. It will be her most conventional 26.2 mile race to date.
She chose the November 7 race from a packed fall schedule. Marathons in Boston, London, Los Angeles and Tokyo now join the already busy schedule of marathons in Berlin, Chicago, Washington and New York due to postponements earlier this year.
After a whirlwind of press trips, celebrations, and, yes, even another race, Seidel said she chose the New York City Marathon for several reasons—the course instructor’s difficulty among them. It’s a world away from the pancake flat marathons in Chicago and Berlin, routes many top runners choose to aim for personal bests or world records.
New York’s route is hilly and tactical, perfect conditions for a marathoner who has seen her greatest success when the going gets rough.
Seidel qualified for the Olympics on a windy, chilly and hilly Atlanta course that slowed the pace of experienced marathoners. She earned her Olympics bronze medal in swampy conditions in Sapporo, a city 500 miles north of Tokyo where organizers hoped temperatures would be more moderate.
“Oh, it was hotter that day in Sapporo than in Tokyo,” she said. Hours before the gun went off for the race on Aug. 6, the start time had been made earlier, at 6 a.m. the temperature at the start was still 78 degrees Fahrenheit with 82 percent humidity. “I feel like that’s just the universe laughing at us,” she said.
Still, she hoped for an advantage. Perhaps Peres Jepchirchir and Brigid Kosgei, two world record holders, would slow down from the world record pace in the steamy conditions (Kenya’s Jepchirchir won the gold and Kosgei the silver, but neither came close to a record).
“I think if the conditions had been perfect that day, they would have gone out there and pulled it hard and just ran an incredible time because it was a very fast course.”
Seidel’s strength comes from the ability, in her words, to prepare for a race to “suck a little.” She sees adverse circumstances as opportunities to level the playing field a bit, to let her body do what it’s trained to do.
“When it gets really hard and things start to kind of even out, then I start to thrive,” she said.
The timing of the New York City Marathon is especially favorable for those who participated in the Tokyo Olympics, which take place some 14 weeks after the Games.
Seidel is joined by Jepchirchir and other formidable competitors such as Des Linden, Emily Sisson, Ruti Aga, Laura Thweatt, Stephanie Bruce and Kellyn Taylor. Both of Seidel’s Olympic marathon teammates, Aliphine Tuliamuk and Sally Kipyego, will also be lining up at the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.
The marathon will be Tuliamuk’s return to racing since she dropped out of the Olympic marathon 20 kilometers due to hip problems. She is on her way to recovery and is optimistic about her performance at this year’s race, calling it a building block and a good spot on the calendar for her.
“New York really is the marathon that made me believe in myself,” Tuliamuk said on the phone, her 7-month-old daughter Zoe babbling in the background. “In 2017, when I ran the New York City Marathon, I felt like I could be a marathon runner. I went back in 2019 and had a really strong race and that was the race that made me believe I could make the Olympic team. ”
The men’s elite field is led by the Olympic silver medalist, Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands; Kenenisa Bekele from Ethiopia and Jared Ward and Ben True from the United States.
They will be joined by another 33,000 marathoners longing for an ounce of normalcy. Tuliamuk and Seidel both spoke wistfully about the joy of seeing fans back on the streets. Tuliamuk is eager to greet her daughter at the finish line. Seidel is hopeful to finally run a race for her family again.
But, Seidel said, as excited as she is for that kind of experience, this isn’t a fun run after the Olympics. “When I go to the finish line of a marathon, I want to make sure I’m competitive,” she said. “I don’t want to call.”