BEIJING, CHINA - The action on the track at the IAAF World Championships can often be heart-breaking and thrilling at the same exact moment, something that was emphasized again on Monday evening in the dramatic finish of the women’s 10,000 meter race.
U.S. distance fans know that only one American has medaled in that race – Kara Goucher in 2007 – and it appeared to those watching at the Birds Nest Stadium that Molly Huddle was about to become the second American 10K medalist. Huddle was third as she came toward the line, and she raised her arms in joy at the prospect of a bronze medal.
Just as Huddle ever-so-slightly let up, teammate Emily Infeld caught and passed her on the inside to capture third. Huddle was crestfallen when she realized she had finished fourth, and Infeld was in disbelief to be the third place finisher.
“I was just trying to run through the line and give it everything I had,” Infeld said. “I feel a little guilty because I feel like Molly let up a little and I don’t think she realized how close I was. But I’m really happy and thrilled.”
Infeld’s training partner in the Bowerman Track Club, Shalane Flanagan, finished sixth in the race, just behind OTC Elite’s Sally Kipyego. Flanagan and Infeld were together as they spoke to the media after the race, and both were fighting back tears at the same time they were beaming with pride and joy.
Flanagan won bronze in the same race on this same track in the 2008 Olympics. She knew what Infeld was feeling at that moment.
“I (told) her these moments don’t happen very often . . . even though you’re there, you’re ready and you’re fit, you still have to nail it on the day (of the race). Soak it up because it doesn’t happen very often, especially for a distance runner.”
In track and field ecstasy and pain are often just a whisker apart. In this case, the difference between the bronze medal and the utter frustration of fourth place was .09 seconds.
That ridiculously slight margin is why we can’t take our eyes off this sport. Especially on the grand stage of a world championships.
Keep that in mind over the next six years, and be there at Hayward in 2021.