BOSTON — Around mile 18, Des Linden thought to herself, “hang up the shoes, retire.” Then she thought about Gabe Grunewald, her Brooks Running teammate who has battled cancer several times in the last decade.
“I thought about every mile being for her and making it matter,” Linden said on NBCSN. “Be brave like Gabe.”
Linden, boosted by those feelings and the Boston crowd cheering on the defending champion, moved up from ninth place to cross the Boylston Street finish line in fifth, 3 minutes, 29 seconds behind Ethiopian winner Worknesh Degefa.
“Any time you finish top five in Boston, that’s a win,” she said on CBS Boston.
Linden, who last year became the first U.S. female runner to win the world’s oldest annual marathon since 1985, appeared to be getting emotional in the final strides before blowing kisses to the crowd.
“That was me almost vomiting,” she corrected in a post-race press conference. Minutes later, Linden cracked open a large beer can given to her by manager Josh Cox and left the dais.
Was it her goodbye to Boston? Linden is 35 years old and, even if she continues elite racing as expected, unlikely to race here next year given the Olympic Trials are Feb. 29. What’s next?
“Lunch, right now, for sure,” she said on NBCSN. “Then we’ll regroup.”
Linden certainly has motivation for one more Olympic try. She dropped out of her first Olympic marathon in 2012 with a stress fracture in her femur. She was seventh in Rio, missing a medal by less than two minutes.
But the U.S. women’s marathon field is deeper than ever. Take Jordan Hasay, the 27-year-old who finished third on Monday. Linden counseled Hasay as they jockeyed in the chase group behind Degefa, who broke away in the fifth mile.
“She’s going to have a breakthrough on this course,” Linden said of Hasay, who bounced back after withdrawing from spring and fall marathons in 2018 with heel fractures. “She’s going to make a name for herself. She is the future. Well, she is right now of American distance running.”
Hasay will definitely continue on, announcing she will race the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13, eyeing 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor‘s American record of 2:19:36. Hasay became the second-fastest American in history at her second career marathon in Chicago in 2017, clocking 2:20:57.
On Monday, Hasay said she heard fans scream “Des” at her and was convinced they were mixing up the Americans. That sat just fine with her.
“Because I watch last year’s video all the time,” of Linden winning, Hasay said. “To be honest, I was still pretending I was her down the straightaway winning last year. I was sitting here, watching it, tearing up.”
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