Desiree Linden tackled her first ultramarathon on Tuesday on a certified 50K course near Eugene, Oregon, and she finished the distance faster than any other woman in the world ever has.
In an unofficial time of 2:59:54, Linden, who is a two-time Olympian and 2018 Boston Marathon champion, added another impressive line to her résumé, averaging 5:47 per mile for 50K. Although World Athletics does not recognize the distance as an official world record, it is a world best. The previous record was 3:07:20, held by Great Britain’s Aly Dixon, set at the 2019 world championships in Brasov, Romania.
— Boston Marathon Pro (@BostonMar_Pro) April 13, 2021
Linden, 37, last competed at the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials, where she placed fourth, one position shy of making the Tokyo Games (she is still the alternate, if Aliphine Tuliamuk, Molly Seidel, or Sally Kipyego become unable to compete). When the pandemic started shortly after that race, Linden’s plans to race the New York City and Boston marathons evaporated and she took some time to figure out what new goals would motivate her.
Originally she wanted to race the Two Oceans Ultramarathon in South Africa, but it was canceled due to the pandemic. So Linden, her agent, Josh Cox, and her sponsor Brooks created their own race on Tuesday near Eugene. It was certified and included a marathon, too, contested by Adriana Nelson and Chirine Njeim.
Linden has long held a desire to try ultra-distance races. She set out on Tuesday averaging 5:47 per mile, exactly the pace she had predicted. Her fastest 26.2 miles was at the 2011 Boston Marathon, finishing second in 2:22:38, an average of 5:27 per mile. More recently she ran the 2019 New York City Marathon in 2:26:46 (averaging 5:36 per mile).
“I’m not really looking to collect accolades or define a legacy or anything like that,” Linden said in March. “For me it’s motivating and this new distance is intriguing.”
Linden had company on the course, too. Also competing at the 50K distance were Charlie Lawrence, who helped pace her effort, and Linden’s husband, Ryan Linden. Nicholas Thompson, CEO of The Atlantic, was hoping to set the 45-49 national age group record and pro ultra runner Sally McRae used the course as a training run for the upcoming Badwater 135.
From Women’s Running