How fatigue and a break helped Desiree Linden finally win the Boston Marathon
April 16 at 3:55 PM Email the author
Desiree Linden celebrates after winning the womenâs division of the 122nd Boston Marathon on Monday. She is the first American woman to win the race since 1985. (Associated Press Photo/Charles Krupa)
For elite runners and weekend warriors alike, the race distance can be a terrible barometer. Twenty-six point two might be a nice sticker to put on the back of a Subaru, but it doesnât come close to illustrating the training miles, the years of preparations, the injuries and setbacks and all the times that the starting line felt as far away as the finish.
In Boston on Monday, Desiree Lindenâs feet splashed and her arms pumped as she neared the finis h line. When she crossed it, becoming the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years, she covered her face, seemingly in disbelief.
âIt hurts right now, but itâs a perfect day for me,â she told CBS Boston. âThis is a grinderâs day.â
She served as the pacesetter for a memorable day for American runners, who claimed seven of the top-10 spots in the womenâs race and six of the top 10 in the menâs. Linden, 34, finished in 2:39.54, more than four minutes ahead of fellow American Sarah Sellers, a virtual unknown entering the race whose second-place finish was more surprising to running enthusiasts than Lindenâs emotional win.
Japanâs Yuki Kawauchi was the surprise menâs winner in 2:10:46, running down defending champion Geoffrey Kirui of Kenya in the final 2 miles; Americans Shadrack Biwott (2:18:35) and Tyler Pennel (2:19:52) were third and fourth.
[Boston Marathon 2018: Linden, Sellers finish 1-2 in womenâs race]< p>At the finish line, Linden was exhausted and exhilarated and there was no way the number 26.2 conveyed just what type of marathon her running career has really been. From a second-place heartbreaker at the same race in 2011 to a pair of Olympic appearances to a soul-searching 2017, sheâd always felt pointed in this direction but the route was filled with twists and turns.
Last yearâs Boston Marathon was actually the one she felt confident about winning. She was coming off a seventh-place finish at the Rio Olympics in 2016, had been a runner-up in Boston six years earlier and was certain it was finally her time â" even though no American had won the womenâs race since Lisa Rainsberger in 1985.
âI know itâs a big thing to say out loud, but I think Iâd be selling myself short if I was like, âOh, I hope I podium,â or, âI would like a PR,ââ she told Runnerâs World. â[Winning] is the thing that Iâm really chasing after.â
Instead, Linde n finished in fourth, more than three minutes behind the winner, Kenyaâs Edna Kiplagat. Thereâs certainly no shame in a top-5 finish at the one of the worldâs toughest distance races, but Lindenâs disappointment was tinged with fatigue. One year before the biggest win of her career, Linden felt she needed a break.
âI hated everything about running,â sheâd later tell Runnerâs World.
It was uncharacteristic of Linden, an obsessive student of the sport. Her coach always thought she was the model student, always eager to take on more.
âFor [Linden] if I say one thing, sheâll add three â¦ Sheâs already done her homework,â Kevin Hanson told The Washington Post before last yearâs Boston Marathon.
Linden wasnât always looking for a second-wind; she wanted to maximize performance while she was tired. For her, fatigue was a mile-marker and pushing it through was a performance goal.
âShe gets it more than some,â Hanson said. â Track athletes always want to feel that zip or pop, if sheâs feeling that sheâs not training hard enough.â
It all caught up to her last year. Sheâd been a serious runner since high school in California, later competing for Arizona State before embarking on a pro career. In 2017, she wasnât ready to retire, but the summer months slipped by and she still wasnât running. She instead went fishing and kayaking and lost herself in books.
Finally last September, after what amounted to a five-month break, Linden slowly started training again, taking a day off whenever she felt like it. Her workload steadily increased, and as Linden explained to Runnerâs World, by October she was running daily and logging at least 90 miles per week.
She started mixing in shorter distances, and in October signed up for her first cross-country race in seven years. In November, other elite runners lined up for New York City Marathon. Linden was there, too, but entered the US A Track & Field 5K championships one day earlier and not the weekendâs marquee event.
Five months later, she found herself back in Boston, a course she loves and with conditions she preferred. But even she couldnât foresee what the 26th mile might look like. Early in the race, fellow American Shalane Flanagan made a restroom stop and Linden waited for her, explaining later to NBC that she figured sheâd eventually fall back and wanted to support her friend.
âTo be honest, at miles 2-3-4, I didnât think Iâd make it to the finish line,â Linden said.
Instead, she kept gaining on Ethiopiaâs Mamitu Daska, finally pulling into first place at the 22-mile mark. Not only were the dayâs wet conditions not a hindrance, but Linden remained steady when others seemed to fade.
âI think thatâs one thing that plays into her advantage,â Hanson explained last year. âHonestly, with Des, I hardly ever want perfect conditions
Lindenâs time Monday was the slowest of any female winner since 1978 and 17 minutes slower than her personal-best â" 2:22:38 â" from the 2011 Boston Marathon. But at raceâs end, times and numbers were the last things on her mind.
âI donât have the right words,â Linden told reporters when it was finished. âIâm thrilled.âSource: Google News