Training in Michigan Helped Desiree Linden Win Boston
“Keep showing up.”
Words to live life by, words of advice and for Desiree Linden, words that propelled her to break the finish line tape at this year’s Boston Marathon.
It was a mantra that got Linden in fighting shape over many long, mentally tough months of training. It was also her motto on race day, which greeted runners with brutally cold, wet weather. Some top competitors dropped out as a result of the chilly temps and driving rain.
For Linden, the weather gave her pause, but also might have played out in her favor. As a member of the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project based in Rochester Hills, Linden had been outrunning a nasty Michigan winter since mid-March. Training prior to that had taken place in sunny Phoenix but Linden said she logged some cold, wet runs leading up to Boston and she knew how to handle the weather that day.
“I know the right things to wear. I know how to stay warm. I’m not going to die because I’ve done it before,” she said with a laugh.
Linden’s win in two hours, 39 minutes, 54 seconds broke a drought in American women’s distance running. The win was the first for an American woman in Boston since 1985.
Still, the day didn’t begin with Linden imagining a win. She considered dropping out early on, but decided instead to help some of her fellow Americans when she still thought it wasn’t her day. She helped Shalane Flanagan catch back up to the lead pack after a quick bathroom break and later helped Molly Huddle rejoin the group as well.
Linden explains that since she didn’t feel a win coming on, she wanted to help other American contenders who had a good shot at taking the race. In the process of helping her fellow runners, everything shifted, Linden said.
“I feel like anybody in that group we had would have done the same thing,” she said.
It was pretty late in the race – around mile 16 or 17 – when she realized she’d splintered the lead pack. She jokes that the fastest way back to the hotel at that point was to just run and she focused on racing, grinding her way to the end. She finished on auto-pilot, a solid four minutes and 10 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.
Linden had come close before in Boston. She’d finished fourth the year before and was the runner-up in 2011. At this year’s finish line, a mixture of “sweet relief, disbelief and joy” came over her. The pictures of that moment are jubilant and triumphant.
“It’s a lifetime of work and they did a great job snapping the right pictures,” she said.
In media interviews after the race, Linden was forthcoming about her struggles during training and through the race, making her relatable to elite and everyday athletes alike. She said training for long distances, no matter your pace, is a difficult endeavor.
“It’s hard and it’s hard at every level,” she said. “We run at different paces, but the process of it all is very similar.”
At the heart of her training, she was running about 120 to 125 miles per week. She focused on eating whole, healthy foods, avoiding processed “bags and boxes”. She said getting a good night’s sleep is her not-so-secret weapon of choice when it comes to recovery and complements her running with physical therapy, massage and strength work.
When she’s training in Michigan, you might find her running at Stony Creek Metropark in Shelby Township, the Vasa Trail in Traverse City and various places in Charlevoix. As a spectator, Linden said she’s a fan of many Michigan races, including the Grand Rapids’ River Bank Run 25K, the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, the Detroit Free Press Marathon and the Brooksie Way Run, which goes right through Rochester Hills.
“This is a great running state. People get running here,” she said.
For any young Michiganders looking to follow in her footsteps, Linden brings it back to her mantra: keep showing up.
“It’s going to be hard,” she said. “It’s supposed to be hard.”
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Photo credit: Carrie Cox (used with permission)