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Huddle breaks the tape in Tufts 10K

In ideal running conditions, a record field of 8,200 runners kicks off the Tufts 10K, which this year also served as the US 10-kilometer championship, attracting many top Americans. In ideal running conditions, a record field of 8,200 runners kicks off the Tufts 10K, which this year also served as the US 10-kilometer championship, attracting many top Americans. (Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff
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By Shira Springer
Globe Staff / October 13, 2009

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Start strong, finish stronger.

That is the oft-repeated slogan for the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women. For a record field of 8,200 runners, the slogan provided motivation. For defending champion Molly Huddle, the words proved a perfect description of her strategy. Huddle staged an impressive finishing kick over the last quarter-mile, pulling away from runner-up Genoveva Kigen on Charles Street and earning the victory in 32 minutes 7 seconds.

The fact that the Tufts 10K also served as the USA Women’s 10K Championship attracted many top American runners, who filled third through sixth places. Rebecca Donaghue (32:29), Sara Hall (32:44), Renee Baillie (32:44) and Katie McGregor (32:46) rounded out the top six.

“I just tried to close hard on [Charles] Street and it worked,’’ said the Providence-based Huddle, whose victory also earned her a second consecutive USA Women’s 10K title. “I wanted to leave it as late as possible.

“This is the deepest field I’ve run against in a road race this summer. I’m really pleased with my time. I’m really happy to be running ahead of people like Katie and Sara and Rebecca. I thought it was a good way to end the season.’’

The ideal conditions helped Huddle improve on her time from last year by 45 seconds. Kigen was pleased with her time (32:12), though she struggled to mount a finishing kick and required medical attention after crossing the line.

“I wanted to try and see my speed because I’ve been training at home [in Kenya],’’ said Kigen. “I just felt tired at the end of it. The last 500, half a mile, I was tired and couldn’t sprint.’’

After receiving a postrace IV, Kigen also acknowledged that the long trip to Boston took its toll. She arrived in New York late Saturday then reached Boston Sunday afternoon. The fast early pace set by Kigen may also explain why the Kenyan had little left down the stretch.

Kigen darted out front from the start and passed the 1-mile mark in 4:52. A chase pack that included Huddle, Donaghue, McGregor, and Ethopian Teyba Naser trailed by five seconds at the mile marker. While Huddle didn’t want to let Kigen open up an early lead, she played it smart and hung back with Donaghue and McGregor. The gap between Kigen and the chase pack remained unchanged when the runners hit 2 miles.

But around the halfway point on Memorial Drive, the chase pack stretched to a single-file line as Huddle began intently pursuing Kigen. Huddle steadily gained ground on Kigen as the women approached Mile 4.

“Molly made a move right before 3 miles and I went with her and she pulled away little by little,’’ said Donaghue. “I went after it today, but I just didn’t have what it would take to win it.’’

Added Hall: “Watching [my husband] Ryan run through the streets of Boston [in the marathon], he made it look like so much fun. I wanted to enjoy the fans, the atmosphere. And I wanted to go for the win. I thought [in the] 32 [minute range] was pretty doable, but they ended up running a lot faster today.’’

When the leaders turned onto the Mass. Ave. bridge and headed back toward Boston, Huddle was running comfortably off Kigen’s left shoulder. Strain was showing on Kigen’s face. Huddle seemed tempted to take the lead after crossing the bridge but restrained herself. The pair was running stride for stride when passing the 5-mile mark in 25:55.

Still showing patience, Huddle waited until the finish line was almost in sight to make her move. Thick crowds on both sides of Charles Street applauded her strong finish and win.

“I love all-women races,’’ said Huddle. “It’s rare that a woman winner will be the first one coming to the line to receive those fresh cheers from the crowd. And seeing all the women runners when you come to the turnaround points [on the course] cheering for you, that’s a great way to celebrate the sport.’’

Shira Springer can be reached at springer@globe.com.