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Q&A: Desiree Linden Gears up for New York City Marathon Debut

The American was 10th at Boston this year and hopes to improve on that result in the Big Apple.

The American was 10th at Boston this year and hopes to improve on that result in the Big Apple.

Desiree Linden, who placed 10th at this year’s Boston Marathon, will toe the line at the New York City Marathon for the first time on Nov. 2.

The Brooks-sponsored athlete, who punched her ticket to the 2012 London Olympics with a second-place finish at the trials, has a handful of impressive performances, including a 2:22:38 debut at the 2011 Boston Marathon, the then-fastest American time on that course. She ran a 2:25:55 at the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon, finishing behind Shalane Flanagan and ahead of Kara Goucher, who will also be racing in New York, but dropped out in London due to an injury.

In 2013, Linden came back to finish second in the USA Half Marathon Championships and fifth at the Berlin Marathon. Competitor followed her training journey in Iten, Kenya, prior to Boston this year. We caught up with her again to talk about New York, why the race is so special and what a post-marathon splurge looks like for the elite marathoner.

The New York City Marathon is coming up on Nov. 2—how are you feeling overall? How has training and tapering gone up to this point?

I’m doing really well—the training block went pretty solid. There was no stand-out workout where you go, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to blow this out of the water.” But it was a string of really, really great workouts, which definitely show I’m ready to go, and I’m definitely excited to get out there and try out that New York course.

This is your first time racing in New York—you feel like you’ve been training to race here your entire career. What is it about New York that makes it so special for you?

It’s one of the majors, and it’s such a grand stage that they set up, and they bring in the top competition. It’s kind of this double-edged sword that the NYRR have going on. They make a big deal about getting the best field and having the top Americans in there, so you want to go in right away and race it, but you also know it’s a big deal, so you really want to be prepared when you do get on that line. I’ve been a little hesitant about getting out there—I wanted to make sure I was really ready for it—but the time was right now, so I feel like I can go compete on that big stage, so I’m excited.

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Is there a particular element of the course or the race that you’re looking most forward to?

I’m definitely just excited to cover the whole course because I know it’s pretty challenging, and I think it’s very strength-runner-oriented, so it will be pretty good for me and play to my strengths a bit. But really just running through the city and covering the ground and being part of such a great event is going to be a lot of fun—something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.

You took some time off after dropping out of the 2012 Olympics due to an injury, and you’ve had a handful of top-10 finishes since then, including this year’s Boston Marathon. What does your race-day goal look like for New York?

I feel like I’ve been slowly building back up after that 2012 injury, and each time out, I’ve been a little bit stronger. I think I will run better than in Boston; time-wise and with the course, I’m not sure how that will play out. Hopefully I will be able to be more competitive in the race. I would love a top-5, top-3 finish. Certainly if I’m in the mix with 10K to go, I think I can race with anyone. I’m not going to shy away; if the opportunity to win is there, I can certainly be in the fight. But top-5 would be great, a PR would be a bonus.

What sort of specific preparation have you done to build up for this race, whether that’s physical workouts or mental preparation or both?

The last couple of days, nothing special, nothing new. Throughout the whole buildup, I’ve just been preparing for the course with longer sustained workouts, just big volume days. So that’s been a little bit different. Mentally, it’s the same thing as every other race; you buy into your training and work on different tactics, like being comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s a big thing. And obviously practicing fluids and stuff, making sure the carbs are all right. But that’s all built into the build-up period. You don’t do anything new the last couple of days.

Prior to Boston in April, Competitor followed part of your training block in Iten, Kenya. What were some of your big takeaways from the trip, and do you have plans to go back?

For me, the big takeaway from that trip was learning to love the process again. After the injury, there was this dread to get out the door sometimes, where you just felt like it was becoming less fun. To be immersed in a culture where people love that everyday and really live for the run, it was really refreshing and got me excited about running. I really enjoyed that. As far as the training goes, they don’t do anything special over there. It’s one foot in front of the other—just grinding with miles. That’s kind of nice to know that I can put in that same work over there and see results. That’s pretty universal with running. [Returning] is not something I’ve ruled out—I would love to return and do another block there—but timing will be the key.

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Looking ahead at the trials, have you given any thought to your race schedule for next year and building it around February 2016?

It’s hard to tell right now—I really haven’t thought a lot past Nov. 2. I do know I need to get on the track at some point and work on my speed. But I have to see how this race goes and where my confidence level is at with the marathon [after Nov. 2]. One step at a time!

But I bet you’ve thought about the first things you want after the marathon is over! What’s a post-marathon splurge look like for you?

Immediately after, I would love to say that I’m the girl who gets the protein shake in and all of that, but I’m totally going to be the burger and beer girl. Then I’ll take two weeks off for general recovery. Amy Hastings’ wedding is in Costa Rica, so that will be a nice little vacation that will fit right in and help with recovery. And of course, the rehab stuff, like massage and staying off your feet and relaxing a bit.

Sounds amazing! For people who are still tackling their first marathon this fall, what is your biggest piece of advice?

Enjoy the process. It’s such a big block training for it, and you’re doing all this work, so if you’re not enjoying it, it kind of takes away from the reward at the end. So enjoy [the training], and remember race day is really a giant running parade where you go out there, smile and have fun. Don’t make it this daunting task—it’s actually a fun thing to go run a marathon!