Who runs the world? Girls. Well, at least according to Beyoncé. But this time, substitute the word “girls” for “mothers.”
January marks the beginning of the indoor track season, an exciting time for spectators to get a glimpse into the progress of their favorite runners’ training. This year is particularly important, as it is the start of a long journey to the 2024 Olympics in Paris. While there are many uncertainties heading into the season, it is evident that moms are the long-distance runners to watch out for this year.
On Jan. 15, 2023, just nine months after U.S. long-distance runner Molly Huddle gave birth to her daughter, she put the world on notice. At the Houston Half Marathon, Huddle earned fifth place among a stellar pro field, running 1:10:01 — a time that makes me feel out of breath just from writing it. For Huddle, though, her speedy half-marathon finish is only a starting point on her road to qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Team Marathon Trials.
Huddle’s buildup to the next Olympics isn’t her first. Huddle is a two-time Olympian and professional running legend. For those of us who are former mediocre high school track athletes, Huddle is a candidate to be on our U.S. running-themed Mount Rushmore.
Besides racing at the Olympics, Huddle is a five-time U.S. champion in the 10,000-meter and a three-time U.S. champion in the 5,000. She also finished in third place at the 2016 New York City Marathon. At the age of 38 with a young daughter, Huddle could have happily hung up her spikes. However, in true Huddle fashion, she isn’t ready to stop. If Huddle’s past accolades teach us anything, it is to never count her out.
Huddle is not the only one to watch. Thirty-eight-year-old Keira D’Amato is known for previously holding the women’s U.S. record for 26.2 miles. D’Amato is a real estate agent and a mother of two. When D’Amato is at her best and finds consistency, there is no stopping her. Similarly, 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials champion Aliphine Tuliamuk was the top U.S. runner in the New York City Marathon late last year and could surprise spectators if she manages to stay healthy, which she has struggled to do. She recently has dealt with a plethora of injuries, ranging from a concussion to a hip injury that forced her to end her marathon race early at the Tokyo Olympics.
In distances shorter than the marathon, 27-year-old Elle Purrier St. Pierre is always a threat. The 2021 U.S. 1,500 champion is currently pregnant with her first child and even raced herself to the World Athletics Championships while pregnant last year. Purrier St. Pierre was recently pictured in a New Balance media campaign rocking both her gear and her bump proudly. Purrier St. Pierre has risen as the face of middle-distance running in recent times, and her combination of strength and speed will be hard to match.
I would say that runners like Huddle and Purrier St. Pierre are bound to destroy our expectations in the next year. Our expectations should already be high, considering the results from Huddle’s recent performance.
Moms will no doubt be the only runners to watch this year, though, as they will have strong competition from other runners.
Emily Sisson will be the U.S. runner to beat over the marathon distance. In October, Sisson broke D’Amato’s marathon record for a U.S. runner at the 2022 Chicago Marathon. Sisson then broke her own half-marathon record for a U.S. runner at the Houston Half Marathon on Jan. 15 with a time of 1:06:52. Although it seems impossible that Sisson could get faster, she still has more potential.
Alicia Monson, a member of the On Athletics Club, ran a 4:23.55 mile at the Jan. 28 Dr. Sander Invitational Columbia Challenge in New York City, displaying her immense range: She typically runs longer races, up to the 10,000. Sinclaire Johnson could also be destined to become the U.S. queen of the 1,500.
Only time will tell. The upcoming year in running is bound to go by fast, filled with exciting races that will help shape predictions. While the competitions are thrilling, I am equally excited to see that in the women’s middle- and long-distance running world there are many women who are breaking barriers and showing that women can be moms and fast, too.
Isabella Terry is a first-year student in the SFS. Run Like a Girl appears online and in print every three weeks.