The first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years is a role model for patience and sportswomanship.
Who run the world?
Elite U.S. runner Desiree Linden ended the American women’s 33-year Boston Marathon drought on Monday, pushing through icy, driving rain to win the challenging course in 2:39:54. The last U.S. woman to win was Lisa Larsen in 1985, three months before Linden turned two.
The 34-year-old two-time Olympian’s historic victory comes on the heels of Meb Keflezighi’s poignant 2013 win in Boston the year after the bombings, when he became the first American man to take first place in more than 30 years. And she follows in the footstep of her friend and teammate Shalane Flanagan’s epic New York City Marathon win in November, which broke a 40-year streak between U.S. women victories on that five-borough course.
But the road to the finish line was paved with ups and downs long before Monday’s two-plus hour slog across 26.2 miles in the pouring rain. Here’s what we can learn from Linden about kicking ass.
— Boston Marathon (@bostonmarathon) April 16, 2018
Push through disappointment. Linden came thisclose to winning the 2011 Boston Marathon, claiming second place just two seconds behind winner Caroline Kilel from Kenya at her personal best time of 2:22:38, which was then the fastest time ever run by an American woman in Boston. But she didn’t give up hope. She’s continued grinding toward her goal for the past seven years, and that grit paid off on Monday. “If you expect every day to be butterflies and cupcakes you’ll be very disappointed,” Linden recently told Boston.com. “But if you quit the first time it gets hard, you’ll be quitting pretty early on.”
6th time’s a charm. Keep showing up! pic.twitter.com/TCJrG4Ee7A
— des_linden (@des_linden) April 16, 2018
Patience pays off. Linden didn’t just show restraint over the past several years working toward her victory lap; she also showed patience on race day by waiting until Mile 22 to make her move into first place, easily pulling ahead of early leaders Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia and Gladys Chesir of Kenya, who lost their legs after the rolling Newton Hills in the back end. This was a case where slow and steady really did win the race, as the inclement weather made Linden’s victory one of the slowest finishes in Boston history.
Be prepared. Linden also had a home field advantage, considering she made her marathon debut at Boston in 2007, and she’s run the race six times. You could say she knows the course – and its rolling hills and turns — like the back of her hams. “I love this city. I love this race, this course. It’s storybook,” she told NBC after winning. So she knew what to expect around every turn, as well as when to hold back, and when to pick up her pace to make an attack.
Take time off. After placing fourth in last year’s Boston Marathon, and competing in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Linden suffered something many of us have encountered at some point or other: She hit a slump. She admitted to Runners’ World that she just didn’t feel like running anymore last summer, so she kayaked, fished, read books and played with her puppy, instead. But then she began dipping her toe back into road races in the fall, and found that taking a few months off gave her fresh legs. “It’s good, because I’m getting excited again,” she said, “like, ‘Man, I wish I was doing that.’ It’s good to have that feeling of excitement.” Cut to Monday, and she won one of the most coveted marathon titles in the world.
Surround yourself with support. Instead of pushing her to get back on course too soon, her husband and her family and her coaches gave her the space she needed to find her drive again. “Ryan (her husband) is the most supportive person on the planet,” she told Runners’ World. “He just rolls with it, like, ‘You can be mad when you need to be mad, and I’m going to be here. When you’re ready to be happy, I’m all for that, too.’” And while she admits she’s “probably not a joy to be around” when she’s not running, her family put up with her anyway. “I love them for loving me through that,” she said.
Be a good sport. Linden was the picture of sportswomanship on Monday. When NYC champ and teammate Flanagan, who went into this race as a favorite to win, had to briefly drop out to race into a porta-potty, Linden actually dropped back from the lead pack of women to wait for her, and pushed Flanagan to rejoin the leaders once she returned. These valuable seconds halfway through the course could have lost Linden the race. But Linden told NBC afterward that, “Honestly, at mile two, three, four, I didn’t feel like I was even gonna make it to the finish line, and I told her (Flanagan), ‘If there’s anything in the race I can do to help you out, let me know, because I might just drop out.’ Helping her helped me, and I kind of got my legs back from there.’” Flanagan ultimately came in ninth.
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