Des Linden is set for the New York City Marathon and then the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials
Des Linden could have retired this spring a legend of the sport in the United States: two Olympic teams, nine top-five finishes at World Marathon Majors, and the crown jewel, a win at the 2018 Boston Marathon. But she chose to press on, motivated by what excites her, rather than what is expected of her. Her Boston win gave her the freedom to leave behind the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project and go solo, returning to college coach Walt Drenth.
Now in her fourth Olympic cycle, she goes into every marathon knowing that it could be her last. If she runs another it is because she wants to — not because it’s the best way for her to prepare for the Olympic Trials or the Games themselves.
“It is a different mentality where you don’t put down a race four years out and work backward,” Linden says.
As one of professional running’s elder stateswomen, Linden isn’t afraid to share her opinion on the sport’s most pressing issues, either. During the course of 33 minutes with the press today ahead of Sunday’s TCS New York City Marathon, Linden put a voice to the concerns facing many athletes sponsored by shoe companies other than Nike, and thus unable to run in Vaporflys, the chunky-soled neon racing flats that have changed the sport of marathoning.
Asked whether there was a level playing field in the sport right now facing Nike athletes in Vaporflys, Linden, who remains sponsored by Brooks, did not equivocate.
“No. I think every company has a different pace that they’re working at. So, we’re all obviously behind to begin with.”
More on that in a minute, but let’s remember the purpose of Linden’s visit to New York. She is running marathon #19 of her career on Sunday, and both Linden and her agent Josh Cox believe she is very fit right now, despite an awful showing at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly Half in September (76:08, the slowest half marathon of her career by over three minutes).
“Everything went wrong in Philly,” Linden said, adding that she picked up a minor hamstring injury before the race. “I had an amazing segment as a whole…I had one bad day, it was just a very public bad day.”
Linden is ready to roll in New York and holding off any decisions on retirement until after the race. It all depends on how her body recovers. If she feels she can produce a performance to be proud of, she’ll be on the start line at the Olympic Trials in Atlanta in February.
“It will be, do I have the ability to compete on the roads and be proud of how I’m competing?” Linden says. “And is it something that is showcasing all the hard work — is this really paying off anymore? And when I feel like I’m putting too much in and I’m not getting results that I’m happy with or appreciating, I’ll switch to the trails or the ultras or something different.”
Now about those shoes: Linden has mixed feelings.
“It’s exciting times, but it’s confusing as well,” Linden says.
Exciting because Nike has spurred innovation across the sport. Linden won Boston last year in Brooks prototypes and her shoes at NYC last fall featured a carbon fiber plate, one of the Vaporflys’ key features.
“As a Brooks athlete, it’s been fun seeing them respond and say, ‘OK. Let’s get in the game. Let’s make something awesome’ and not ‘Let’s play catch up.’ They are in the lab going, ‘Let’s be better. Let’s be the best.’”
All that innovation has led to the fastest times the sport has ever seen, but Linden says that one of running’s great appeals — the ability to compare times across eras — is more complicated than ever.
posted Saturday November 2nd
by Jonathan Gault