ND Cross Country
Molly Seidel to compete in first Olympics in 2021
Nate Moller | Monday, November 2, 2020
Although Molly Seidel won a plethora of titles on the track and on cross country courses during her time at Notre Dame, she has shown over the past several months that she is one of the best female marathon runners in the country.
Seidel, a 2015 Notre Dame graduate, ran her first ever marathon this past February at the Olympic time trials and finished second, qualifying for the Olympics in the process. Most recently, Seidel competed in the London Marathon, where she finished sixth amongst some of the best in the world.
Seidel described the impact that Notre Dame has had on her professional running career.
“Getting to not only be a student there but also an athlete, I feel like I learned so much about myself,” Seidel said. “I think it’s really a one-of-a-kind college experience that you get.”
She also attributed much of her current success to head women’s cross country and track and field coach Matt Sparks.
“Sparks is the reason that I am running professionally today. He turned around my entire running career. He helped me win four national championships,” Seidel said. “More than that, he is a really incredible person, and I think he cares for you as a person first and an athlete second. He knows that if you are happy and healthy, you are going to run well. He’s still someone that I talk with every week or two, and someone who I know is always in my corner.”
When asked about her most memorable race from college, Seidel talked about her first outdoor track title in 2015 in the 10,000-meter event at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
“Coming into it as kind of a dark horse and taking the lead with a half mile to go and winning it, I think that was the moment where I realized I hit the next level —being more terrified than I ever had been in my life those last two laps but knowing that I could do it if I just held on,” Seidel said. “It was one of those moments with that before and after where it’s never going to be the same afterwards.”
When asked about her performance at the Olympic Trials in Atlanta this past February, Seidel discussed how she had no expectations to make the Olympic team whatsoever, and she just wanted to get some valuable experience in her first-ever marathon.
“I got out there, though, and I felt like I was in such a good mental place because I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself to hit a certain pace,” Seidel said. “I was just going out there and racing and being in the moment, and then all of a sudden I’m 19 miles in and up in second. It’s just one of those moments where you just have to not think about what you’re doing and how scary it is that you have never been in this place before. I had literally never run 26 miles in my life up until that race, so you kinda just go with it.”
Seidel placed second in the race in a blazing fast time of 2:27.31 to qualify for the Olympics.
She discussed the emotions and feelings of joy that she felt after the race.
“It was such a cool day because my entire family was there, and so many of my friends were there,” she said. “They had come out expecting to watch me run my first marathon — not to make the Olympic team — so they were just losing their minds. It was one of those days that I don’t think I could have imagined it more perfect in my mind.”
With the global COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Tokyo games were postponed to summer 2021. Although this has been difficult for Seidel, keeping running in perspective to the rest of the world has helped with this.
“I’ve struggled with it because the Olympics are huge and this is such a sad thing, and I mourn not being able to have the Olympics this year,” she said. “But at the same time, there’s so much bigger, more important things going on in the world and so much greater suffering than that. In the grand schemes of things, the Olympics were postponed one year.”
Although Seidel was not able to compete in the Olympics as planned this summer, she ran in the 2020 London Marathon, where she placed sixth overall and ran a personal best of 2:25.13 despite having no fans to cheer her on.
“London was freaking wild,” Seidel said. “It was the opposite experience from what Atlanta was. In Atlanta, there were spectators and crazy energy. For London, we were in a quarantine bubble for the week leading into it, and then 20 laps around Buckingham palace with no spectators. They at least had cardboard cutouts around it to give it a semblance of normalcy. At the same time, I really enjoyed the format. I was just so thankful to have another race and get in another marathon before the Olympics next summer.”
Seidel plans to take it easy for a little bit to recover from the London marathon, and then after that, her mind will be set on the Olympic games, which are scheduled to start in under nine months.
“We will get in some big training blocks, but we have no idea what racing will look like between now and the marathon in next August,” she said. “The most important part is trying to get in solid, consistent training and nothing too crazy,” she said.
Although Seidel has set high goals for herself for the Olympics, she also knows to be realistic with herself as she runs against the best runners in the world.
“Suddenly I am not against the best in the US, but the best in the world. I’m trying to approach it with humility and knowing this is going to be really tough,” Seidel said. “This is probably going to be the toughest race that I [have] ever run. … [I’m] just going out and seeing what I can do and trying to stick my nose in it and stay competitive.”