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Wednesday, 18 April 2018 13:52


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Desi Linden takes Boston in a storm, literally and figuratively. Desi Linden takes Boston in a storm, literally and figuratively.
No one deserved to be the first American woman to win Boston since another Michigander Lisa Larsen Weidenbach in 1985 than Desiree Linden. She has placed well here in each of her races including her second place finish by two seconds in 2011. Desi's first trip here in 2007 had conditions nearly as bad as today. But today's weather of near freezing temperatures, strong headwinds and periods of torrential rain and even hail led every athlete on the course to the ultimate test.
I have been attending this marathon for forty years and today's weather was absolutely the worst ever imagined. The professional women started off at 9:32am and the first mile was passed in 6:24. A huge pack held together for many miles as no one was particularly keen on taking the lead although Bezunesh Deba and Mamitu Daska took the lead several times then came back to the pack.
American hopeful Jordan Hasay had dropped out of the race the night before due to a stress reaction in her foot. The remaining American contenders Molly Huddle, Shalane Flanagan, and Serena Burla were in the mix through halfway. Shalane had to take a potty break between miles 11 and 12 and briefly talked with Desi before veering off the course. Desi slowed down a bit to wait on Shalane and helped her get back to the lead pack. As an aside, I have watched the Hanson-Brooks team for nearly two decades and their athletes are the epitome of sportsmanship and moral support of each other and their competitors. No one earned this victory more than Desi.
Desi felt "horrible" most of the race and actually considered bagging it.She felt she "should probably drop out" and kept that thought the whole race. She kept on hammering although she felt the wind at times was standing her straight up.The field jockeyed back and forth then as the women rounded the corner at the Newton fire house Mamitu Dasku was leading and Gladys Chesir was making a move leaving Desi in third place. As they climbed the Newton hills Dasku with a thirty second lead began to slow a bit and after the third hill Chesir took the lead from Dasku. Desi was steadily gaining on the two and as they reached the top of heartbreak hill Desi took the lead.She never looked back and I sensed this would not be a second place day but she was "running totally afraid". She realized how slowly she was running and said a sprint finish in a marathon is absolutely no fun".
When she turned right on Hereford Street and was less than half a mile away, she she finally thought "this is happening, this is for real". "But even on Boylston, I tried not to let out the gas until I got right to the tape". "This is the biggest day of my running career, and you know if it hadn't been difficult, it would not mean as much".
I watched Desi pass Exeter and the final 200 meters remained.She looked so cold but so focused. The crowds were going wild. Desi's consistency and metronomic pace remained even in these dreadful conditions as she ran the first half in 1:19:42 and the second half in 1:20:12 winning in 2:39:54. She won by over four minutes as the elite field dropped out in droves. The women she passed at twenty miles did not finish the race. Shalane, Molly and Serena finished in 6th, 13th and 14th place of the elite fields. Several non elites slipped between them in the results but they were running in a separate race so five of the women in the top twenty were not in the elite women's race.
Desi plans to continue racing through 2020 and the Olympic Trials then will make a decision as to what is next. Her husband Ryan and Ben True have started a coffee company so she is not sure what will come next. Perhaps she can combine her love of coffee and boubon into a lucrative career!!
One of her coaches, Keith Hanson, said Desi has kept training and keeps improving. This win is a huge boost for the Hanson-Brooks program as they continue to foster excellence in their athletes. It takes time and there are many ups and downs but they get it done. Their male athlete Shadrack Biwot finished 3rd overall and Keith told me that their athlete Dathan Ritzenheim, who had to drop out due to an SI injury, was doing all of his workouts considerably faster than Shadrock. The group from Michigan is one tough bunch and this was their day to shine. Many congtrats to all. And Keith gave me the best comment ever when he said "I wish Steve were here to see this". But I can guarantee my Steve was watching it all and is celebrating in the celestial realm tonight.
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