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Des Linden back after “life-changing” win in the Boston Marathon last year

Des Linden hasn’t watched the video clip that much. She is running down Boylston Street with her bib number 8 attached sideways to her jacket, wiping cold rain out of her eyes, pumping her fist as she nears the finish line tape of the Boston Marathon and finally breaking it and a 33-year-long drought of American women winning the historic race.

“I think it’s that idea of you see that happen and you could really be just content, like, ‘Why would I ever step on the line again? Man, that was perfect,’” said Linden Friday, a few days before she will tackle the 26.2 mile course in the rain once again.

“But I’m still competing and still want to do well and walk in with a chip on my shoulder. I think if I watched that moment too much, I would probably just get soft and call it a day.”

That’s hard to imagine. Linden, 35, of Washington, Mich. is a fierce competitor, as evidenced by her dogged victory in some of the worst conditions ever in Boston last year. The last American woman to win at Boston was Lisa Larsen Rainberger in 1985.

Linden, a two-time Olympic marathoner, had been close in 2011 when she ran her PR (2:22:38) at Boston. She finished fourth twice, eighth once. She finished seventh in the Olympics. She was one of the most durable marathoners and probably had the most experience on the course and last year, when the frigid rainy conditions (37 degrees at the start with a 25 mph headwind) made others hypothermic, she was able to run a breakthrough race.

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And now she is back in Boston, after an interesting year. She split from her long-time coaches, the Hanson brothers of the Hansons-Brooks Project, and reconnected with her college coach Walt Drenth from Arizona State, who is now coaching at Michigan State. She presented Taylor Swift with the award for top female artist at the Billboard Music Awards. She made appearances at races across the country. She was the official starter for the elite women’s field at the Falmouth Road Race in August and then jumped into the pack and ran the 7.1-miler for fun.

“It was life-changing – it took a lot of weight off [her shoulders] and a lot of pressure off how I attack races,” Linden said. “It allowed me to make a coaching move where I can try something a little different; there might be something else there. In a weird way, it got me out of my comfort zone.

“In the past, it was always make contact, hit it and you can get on base. Now you’re winning the game, you can swing for the fences and you can have some fun. It’s a different mentality. The marathon is still a beast and the distance itself always has to be respected but I think it will be fun to go out there and run a little more carefree.”

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She finished sixth in 2:27:51 at the New York City Marathon in November behind four-time winner Mary Keitany of Kenya, Shalane Flanagan (third) and Molly Huddle (fourth).

But Boston is a different beast and the weather forecast is calling for rainy conditions again although it should be warmer (50s-60s) than last year.

“Training has gone very well,” Linden said. “It’s a different coach and a different situation, so it’s hard to know what it all means. It’s kind of exciting. I felt like I was really stuck for a long time on a plateau.

“I think I’m ahead of last year. If the conditions are the same, I like my chances. I’ve run well here in the heat, in a headwind, you name it. I think I’m fit.”

The No. 1 bibs were presented to Linden and men’s winner Yuki Kawauchi of Japan Friday morning.

“It’s been a celebratory weekend,” Linden said. “Today we got the bibs, turn the page, and on Monday, let’s do it again. Let’s attack this race. There’s going to be a new champion. I want it to be me.”

Lori Riley can be reached at lriley@courant.com.

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