Des Linden

Des Linden
New York Road Runners

Des Linden decides to keep racing, enters New York City Marathon

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Des Linden says she’s running every marathon as if it’s her last. She could have said goodbye on April 15, finishing fifth in defense of her Boston Marathon title, blowing kisses to the crowd after denying regurgitation.

Instead, Linden plans to race the New York City Marathon for the third time and second year in a row on Nov. 3.

The two-time U.S. Olympian placed fifth in 2014 and sixth in 2018 at the five-borough event. She decided to sign up again after a post-Boston break and a weeklong Hong Kong vacation.

“Just been logging a lot of miles deciding what would be next and got the itch to start doing workouts and getting the longer stuff,” Linden said. “It’s the biggest stage in the world, so it’s hard to pass up on that opportunity. It’s a no-brainer. I like tough, technical courses.”

Linden, 36, could become the oldest female U.S. Olympic marathoner since 2004 next year. But, taking the one-at-a-time mantra that Shalane Flanagan adopted late in her career, she’s not (yet) committing to the Olympic trials on Feb. 29.

Neither of Linden’s previous Olympic experiences was especially memorable. 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. The Kenyan-born gold and silver medalists were later busted for EPO and are serving lengthy doping bans.

“I don’t feel like I have anything to prove and anything unfinished,” at the Olympics, Linden said. “Quite frankly, the last experience is a hard sell to get back out there to try to compete for medals when you’re not even really sure what the field is all about. It’s a little bit difficult to be excited about that with the way we are about the [World Marathon] Majors. People investing in anti-doping have really been solving that problem [at the majors]. It’s a little tricky [at the Olympics], but certainly representing your country is special.”

Linden did acknowledge that a technical, undulating course like New York could provide ideal preparation for the Olympic trials course in Atlanta that, like New York, is not expected to produce fast times. Linden also dismissed it being too tight of a turnaround from the latest of the fall major marathons to a trials in the winter.

Linden did not race fall marathons in 2011 or 2015 ahead of Olympic trials, though the trials race was earlier each of those years. If she does race at next year’s trials, it would mark her shortest break between marathons of what would be her 20 times contesting the distance.

“There’s ample time to recover and get back at it,” she said. “I don’t need to go and run a fast time or get a qualifier or anything. It was just about picking the race that was going to get me excited.”

None of the other accomplished U.S. female marathoners are in the New York field. Flanagan, 38 and the 2017 New York winner, hasn’t said if she will go for a fifth Olympics. Amy Cragg, the 2017 World bronze medalist, and Jordan Hasay, the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner in history, are racing Chicago on Oct. 13.

The New York favorite will be Kenyan Mary Keitany, who won four of the last five titles and has Linden’s respect.

“She’s the best of the best,” Linden said. “When you race her, it’s more about running super smart and staying within yourself and doing all the things you can control in your own race and hoping she finds a way to beat herself, which she’s done on the New York course in the past, but it’s not very often that Mary has a bad day on these stakes.”

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U.S. Olympic marathon team outlook heading toward trials

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A look at the U.S. men’s and women’s marathon rankings at the end of the spring majors with 10 months until the Olympic trials in Atlanta (NAMES IN BOLD HAVE MET IAAF STANDARD TO BE GUARANTEED ELIGIBLE FOR OLYMPICS)

Men (since 1/1/2018)
1. Galen Rupp — 2:06:07 (Prague 2018)
2. Galen Rupp — 2:06:21 (Chicago 2018)
3. Scott Fauble — 2:09:09 (Boston 2019)
4. Jared Ward — 2:09:25 (Boston 2019)
5. Elkanah Kibet — 2:11:51 (Boston 2019)
6. Jared Ward — 2:12:24 (New York City 2018)
7. Scott Fauble — 2:12:28 (New York City 2018)
8. Elkanah Kibet — 2:12:35 (Chicago 2018)
9. Augustus Maiyo — 2:12:40 (Boston 2019)
10. Shadrack Biwott — 2:12:52 (New York City 2018)

Rupp easily beat the IAAF Olympic standard time of 2:11:30 in both of his 2018 marathons, but that was before the IAAF window began on Jan. 1. The 2016 Olympic bronze medalist missed the spring marathon season after foot surgery, but if it turns out the Olympic standard is a requirement to make the Tokyo Games, he would be expected to hit it in a fall marathon or possibly at trials, though that course is hilly and could be hot. … Fauble, a former University of Portland runner who made his marathon debut in 2017, and Ward, sixth in Rio, are the only U.S. men with the IAAF standard and clearly the early favorites to join Rupp in the top three at trials. … Keep an eye on five-time Olympic track runner Bernard Lagat‘s second career marathon on July 7 in Gold Coast, Australia. Lagat, already the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history, debuted with a 2:17:20 in New York City on Nov. 4.

Women (since 1/1/2018)
1. Amy Cragg — 2:21:42 (Tokyo 2018)
2. Emily Sisson — 2:23:08 (London 2019)
3. Kellyn Johnson — 2:24:29 (Duluth 2018)
4. Jordan Hasay — 2:25:20 (Boston 2019)
5. Sara Hall — 2:26:20 (Ottawa 2018)
6. Shalane Flanagan — 2:26:22 (New York City 2018)
7. Molly Huddle — 2:26:33 (London 2019)
8. Molly Huddle — 2:26:44 (New York City 2018)
9. Aliphine Tuliamuk — 2:26:50 (Rotterdam 2019)
10. Des Linden — 2:27:00 (Boston 2019)

The U.S. women are much deeper and stronger internationally than the men. Consider that the IAAF women’s Olympic standard time is 2:29:30, which 14 Americans have hit since the start of 2018, including six since the IAAF window began on Jan. 1. … Hasay, the top-finishing American in all three of her marathon starts (all majors), and Sisson, who just ran the second-fastest U.S. debut marathon ever, have the most momentum after the spring season. … Cragg, Flanagan, Huddle and Linden are the veteran Olympians at different stages: Cragg, 35 and the 2016 Olympic Trials winner, tops the rankings but looks like she will go more than 18 months between her last marathon and her next one. … Flanagan, 37 and the 2017 New York City Marathon winner, is undecided on whether she will resume her career after knee surgery last week. … Huddle, 34 and the greatest American distance runner ever between the 5km and half marathon, was disappointed to only PR by 11 seconds in London. … Linden, 35 and the 2018 Boston champ, hasn’t announced her plans after placing fifth in her defense, but she hasn’t been beaten by three Americans in a marathon since the 2008 Olympic Trials.

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MORE: 2019 London Marathon Results

Des Linden cracks open beer after satisfying Boston Marathon, future unclear

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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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