Athletics

Des Linden: "Running rewards consistency and resilience"

The 2011 Boston Marathon runner-up and 2018 champion is the subject of "Anatomy of" on Olympic Channel.

By ZK Goh ·

Desiree Linden knows better than most the value of persistence and resilience.

In 2011, the American was pipped to the Boston Marathon finish line by just two seconds, a tiny margin after running 42.195 km.

Undeterred by the narrow margin of her defeat, she kept at it and eventually came back to win the race seven years later, in pouring rain and cold conditions.

The 36-year-old is the latest subject of the Olympic Channel's Anatomy Of original series, which studies the powers and physiques of elite athletes to find out what makes them special in their sport.

Anatomy of a Marathon Runner: How does Desiree Linden Keep on Running?

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In 2011, Linden – then running under her maiden name Desiree Davila – was one of three athletes in the elite women's race to finish within six seconds of each other at the top of the pile.

Kenya's Caroline Kilel completed the course in two hours 22 minutes 36 seconds.

Linden clocked in at 2:22:38; Kilel's compatriot Sharon Cherop was only a further four seconds behind her.

"I was crushed," she told Boston-area public radio station WBUR. "It’s risky business putting your heart into your dreams. Coming so close that year — but failing — could have taught me to be less vulnerable, to risk less, to believe less. But it didn’t.

"There’s value in behaving like a champion every single day for years — in making it a habit. As time went on, I realised that my daily habit made me a better version of myself."

Caroline Kilel finishes just ahead of Desiree (Davila) Linden at the 2011 Boston Marathon. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Second chances

The year after her Boston disappointment, Linden went to London 2012 with Team USA, but failed to finish the race. Then, four years later at Rio 2016, Linden worked with teammate Shalane Flanagan as the U.S. pair worked their way to seventh and sixth place respectively (the third American, Amy Cragg, finished ninth).

Flanagan would be instrumental in Linden's eventual Boston win in 2018.

In the wet and cold weather, Linden had decided around six miles (roughly 9.6 km) into the race that she would pull out, and offered to help Flanagan until she did so. When Flanagan took a toilet break, Linden offered to help her get back into the pack.

The pair ended up back in the main group, and as the leaders faltered, Linden finally found herself in the lead with under 10 km left. Although she had wanted to quit, she was now at the head of the race.

She became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon since 1985.

"How often in life do we get a second chance?" – Des Linden

With the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Boston Marathon was postponed to September from its traditional mid-April date.

But Linden says running has taught her to persevere.

"Running rewards consistency and resilience. So does life. Keep your heads up. Lend a hand to the people around you.

"If we act like champions, we will all win."