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Is Molly Huddle the GOAT of American women’s distance running?

Huddle is one of the most decorated and consistent runners in American distance history

2016 New York City Marathon

Over the weekend, Molly Huddle, American 5K, 10,000 and half-marathon record-holder, set three new American records in one race. She set out to run the American one-hour record, which she accomplished, and within that record, she also ran the 15,000m and 10-mile track records. Beyond her now nine American records, she has also run a 4:26 mile and a 2:26 marathon, demonstrating truly remarkable range. For context, 4:26 was the Canadian indoor mile record until Gabriela DeBues-Stafford broke it in 2018. For even more context, only one Canadian woman has ever fun faster than Huddle over the marathon distance, our national record-holder Malindi Elmore. These many accomplishments are what arguably make her the best American distance runner of all time. 

RELATED: Molly Huddle breaks three U.S. records in one run

Huddle is certainly not the only woman who could contend for the title of GOAT. Several others like Shalane Flanagan, Shelby Houlihan, Mary Slaney and Deena Kastor all come to mind as dominant distance women whose names remain on the record boards. Here’s a breakdown of their accomplishments and a closer look at why Huddle might have the most range of them all. 

Note: 1,500m and mile personal bests have both been used as a basis for comparison below. These events are only 109m different in length and are often used interchangeably as seed times and even qualification marks for major championships. 

Molly Huddle

Senior national records: Nine
International medals: None, but fourth at the 2015 World Championships. 
Mile personal best: 4:26
Marathon personal best: 2:26

Huddle’s 2015 fourth-place worlds finish was heartbreaking for her and triumphant for fellow American Emily Infeld, who clinched the position at the line. While Huddle doesn’t have any world or Olympic medals to show for her years of consistency, she’s been competitive in many finals. 

Shalane Flanagan

Senior national records: Two
International medals: Olympic silver in 10,000m, NYC marathon winner 2017
1,500m personal best: 4:05
Marathon personal best: 2:21

Flanagan has the range and the world-stage accomplishments, but she doesn’t have the records compared to Huddle. However, what Flanagan proved time and time again in her career is that she’s able to show up on race day and deliver. 

Shelby Houlihan

Senior national records: Two
International medals: None 
1,500m personal best: 3:54
Marathon personal best: Hasn’t run one yet. 

Houlihan certainly isn’t an American GOAT just yet, but she’s showing signs of becoming one. She’s already run both the American 1,500m and 5,000m national records and placed fourth in the fastest world championship 1,500m final in history. Give this young runner a few years and she could top this list. 

Mary Slaney

Senior national records: Three
International medals: Two
1,500m personal best: 3:57
Marathon personal best: Hasn’t run one.

While Slaney didn’t ever run a marathon, she was undeniably a pioneer of women’s distance running in America. To still hold the mile, 2,000m and 3,000m national outdoor records (which she set 35 years ago) is remarkable. 

Deena Kastor

Senior national records: Two
International medals: Olympic bronze medal
1,500m personal best: 4:07
Marathon personal best: 2:19:36

Kastor can never be left out of the conversation when it comes to the greatest of all time. She’s was a killer on the track who became the best American marathon runner to date. While many of her national records have since fallen, her marathon record has certainly stood the test of time.