Desiree Linden: America’s New Running Sweetheart
The Boston Marathon always elicits the best running has to offer and exemplifies the best attributes of those running, volunteering and spectating. Often the pinnacle for runners, elite and non-elite alike, Patriot’s Day is arguably the most anticipated Monday of the year. This year was no exception.
Social media feeds were full of race numbers, blue and yellow and unicorns. It was enough motivation to make anyone log a few extra miles or push a little harder. If you were following Shalane Flanagan, Molly Huddle or Desiree Linden you’ve watched the anticipation build to Marathon Monday and hoped one of your American girls brought home a tape tearing race. The conditions of the 122nd Boston Marathon have been described as nothing but “brutal” by Shalane and the worst conditions ever raced in by almost every other runner that was there on social media.
Yet, 2 hours, 39 minutes and 54 seconds after the female elites began Desiree “Des” Linden won the 122nd Boston Marathon. She is the first American female to win Boston since 1985. Beverages were spilled all over the country as people streamed the race at their desk, watched it on TV from home and wished their phone screens were just a bit bigger, all jumped up with a collective cheer.
“I never could have imagined how incredible the feeling of breaking the tape on Boylston would be if I tried,” said Des. “This one race has been years in the making. After near misses and so many days working toward this, I feel proud and overjoyed.”
Honest and humble, she immediately became the new American Sweetheart.
It’s hard to imagine while watching the race that anything other than sheer determination and positive thoughts were occurring in the minds of that elite group of women. Des laid it out, “It was such a miserable day, and when things go awry, they can kind of ding you up…And early on, I was freezing and my muscles were tight, and I was like ‘This isn’t – this is not my day.’ So I did kind of toy around with the idea of stepping off.”
How many runs do those very real thoughts occur and you have to talk yourself off the cliff? The winner of the Boston Marathon just admitted to wanting to give up during the race she won. Refreshing, real and just like every other runner there.
Des’s Twitter feed was entirely transparent on her struggles to even toe the line. The back and forth mental and physical feelings all runners, not just women, endure. To get her through, once she made the decision to remain in the race, she came up with a very do-able mission.
“Just show up for one more mile. Show up for one minute,” she said.
Des ran with an almost laid-back approach. Appearing on Good Morning America with Shalane, Des reiterated she didn’t think Monday was her day and that she offered to block the wind for Shalane or aid her any way. The act of selflessness is astounding and admirable at the least. To be such a true competitor that you place your needs behind those of the larger camaraderie of the USA is nothing short of exceptional. Marathon racing is not (really) a team sport yet Des took one for the team when she slowed down to help Shalane Flanagan get back into the lead pack after a speedy bathroom break.
Des later pulled away and ahead of the pack and took the lead from Ethiopian runner Mamitu Daska. As Des crossed the finish line a few miles later, there was no one else running in sight. Aside from Des’s win, six other top 10 spots were obtained by American women.
A Little about Des
A current Michigan resident, the 34-year-old finished the 2011 Boston Marathon a heartbreaking 2 seconds behind the winner and with a time faster than her 2018 win at 2:22:38. The 2011 Boston Marathon is her marathon Personal Record to this day. A competitive runner since she was in high school, she is a two time Olympian representing the United States running the women’s marathon in both Olympics. In 2012 London Olympics she failed to finish due to a stress fracture in her femur. At the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic she redeemed herself with an impressive 2:26:08 finish. She now runs for Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project and currently is sponsored by Brooks, Oakley, Powerbar, and Timex.
A self-described “whiskey connoisseur” it appears by her Instagram (@des_linden) feed she doesn’t shy away from having fun. Earlier this month Des spilled the beans (pun intended) that she is an important half of one of the two married couples making up the coffee specialty team, linden & true coffee. The company roasts high-quality beans in small batches. While Des was in Boston to run a marathon, the remainder of the linden & true coffee group came to the appropriately named Beantown to brew up some joe and cheer on their favorite runner.
The sportsmanship and overall approach seem like Des was cut right out of the ideal role model prototype. If her win has taught us anything, it’s that playing fair, being honest in your race and putting one foot in front of the other will lead us to our own great victories. They won’t be breaking tape at Boston, but you never know, the first mile is always a liar.
Feature Image by A Runner’s Eye/Justin Britton