The gritty 31-year-old is back to see if she can improve upon her 2011 runner-up finish.
At the 2011 Boston Marathon, Desiree Linden had everyone out of their seats as she charged the final 600 meters to the finish line on Boylston Street, including rival coach and former Boston marathon champion Alberto Salazar, who was watching the race on a big screen TV in the media room at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel.
Salazar, who was coaching Kara Goucher—the fifth-place finisher in the 2011 race—at the time, hollered with enthusiasm at the television set along with dozens of other onlookers as the Hansons-Brooks athlete ran stride for stride toward the finish line with Kenyan Caroline Kilel. Although Linden came up just short of the win, losing to Kilel by a mere 2 seconds, that exciting moment fostered a sense of optimism that the next American female victory isn’t far away.
“If you can win in Boston, that pretty much makes you a legend as an American, so it’d be nice to have that one on my résumé,” Linden says. “It really is the marathon.”
Linden is returning to Boston this year after placing ninth last year in 2:23:54, a time that would have put her on the podium most years. She makes up a strong American trio that also includes last year’s top American and seventh-place overall finisher Shalane Flanagan, along with a resurgent Amy Hastings—Linden’s college teammate at Arizona State—who was the fourth-place finisher at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon and has been tearing up the U.S. road circuit since last summer.
For Linden, Monday’s race will be her fourth crack at the iconic Patriots’ Day race, an event which undoubtedly holds a special place in her heart. She made her marathon debut at Boston in 2007, running 2:44:56 to finish 19th. She’s improved in leaps and bounds since that day 8 years ago, but it’s the pursuit of the top spot on the podium, along with an unmatched history and energy along the course, that continues to pull at her like a magnet.
“The history of the race, the competition, the course, the fans—all of that is really appealing, especially for someone who considers herself a marathoner,” the 31-year-old says. “If you can have success there, it definitely keeps you coming back.”
Heading into the 2015 race, Linden says she’s close to the form she displayed in 2011, no doubt a result of her longest injury-free stretch of training and racing since being forced to the sidelines for several months with a stress fracture before the 2012 Olympic Games. This spring, she spent five weeks training in Kenya, where she stayed at Lornah Kiplgat’s High Altitude Training Camp for the second straight year and logged miles with other top athletes training in the area.
“It was motivating to get back out there and re-fall in love with running,” recalls Linden. “This year I was really familiar with everything. It was good to have a few different training partners and I think I just had a better grasp on what I needed to do day-to-day to make sure I was really recovering from my workouts. It all kind of fit together really well.”
After returning from Kenya, Linden spent some time training with her Hansons-Brooks teammates in Florida before racing the NYC Half on March 15—her only tuneup race before Boston—where she finished 12th in 1:12:36. “I felt strong but never quite got my legs under me,” Linden says of her race in The Big Apple. “And that wasn’t necessarily the worst thing because we were tired and we still had a handful of big workouts left.”
Linden went to Boston for a few days after the New York race and did runs of 13, 20 and 15 miles over the final parts of the Boston Marathon course, visualizing what it would be like to be in contention again over the last few miles of the race.
“It was good to just refresh,” Linden explains. “I feel like I’ve been out there so much now that I’m familiar with what’s going on no matter where I am on the course.”
Following her solid showing at last year’s race, Linden returns to Boston in 2015 feeling like the Desi of old: healthy, confident and ready for whatever her competition—and the course—throw her way on Monday. Lining up against a strong American and international field, Linden hopes she can once again be the reason people are back on the edge of their seats when the lead women make the turn onto Boylston Street—this time with a slightly different result.
“Going into last year I wasn’t super confident but this year I feel like I’m moving like myself and my stride and turnover feel great,” Linden says. “I’ve been really consistent on workouts and I’m excited. Getting so close to winning in 2011 and having that taste of what it might be like to break the tape there keeps me coming back to see if I can improve on that finish.”