Elite athletes dish on everything Boston Marathon—and look ahead at the 2016 trials.

Photo credit: Photorun.net
Photo credit: Photorun.net

Elite athletes dish on everything Boston Marathon—and look ahead at the 2016 trials.

Thousands of athletes are finalizing travel plans and race-day to-dos as we dip under 30 days until the 119th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 20. Among them are Brooks athletes and former college teammates Desi Linden and Amy Hastings-Cragg. After a second-place finish in 2011 and a swift 2:23:54 finish in 2014, Linden hopes to step onto the podium this year. Hastings-Cragg will make her Boston debut this year and aims to run her best marathon yet after two identical 2:27 performances in Los Angeles and Chicago. Both sub-2:30 marathoners have a strong chance at gold, which would be a first for American women at Boston in 30 years. Women’s Running caught up with the Brooks athletes and learned about their training, their favorite parts of the Hopkinton-to-Boston course and why every runner should strive to run the Boston Marathon at least once in her life.

Training away from winter weather…

Linden: Obviously the weather is better in Kenya, coming from Michigan. Getting out of the winter is nice. It’s also really hilly and the roads are pretty rugged, so I think it’s very strength building and building up the mileage there, I’d compare it to running cross country everyday. It feels really good in that respect. (Linden spent five weeks training in Africa to prepare for the marathon.)

Hastings-Cragg: This year we made the excellent decision to go down to Phoenix for January and February. Last year I tried to stick it out [in Providence, R.I.] before Boston, and nothing was coming around. I felt like I couldn’t train outside, I was running on treadmills, so I ended up pulling out of Boston last year. I didn’t want to make the same mistake again, so we spent two months in Phoenix.

Thoughts on last year’s race…

Linden: 2011 was obviously a great year and everything came together just right. I think women’s marathoning has gotten better since then; obviously last year was a pretty solid time I ran [2:24] and I wasn’t even in the picture. I know I need to be better. I don’t think it’s something you can force. So I think I’ve really gradually built into this marathon, and I have a couple of really solid ones behind me. I think I can definitely be in the mix this year and hopefully like 2011 everything will just fall into place. (Linden placed second in 2011.)

Keys to a successful marathon…

Hastings-Cragg: You want consistency, every run is important, even in between runs. Sometimes the key to that run will be to take it easy. It’s kind of like looking long term and having workouts be consistent. Nothing glamorous, nothing exciting—it’s just putting them in one after another that really will help you have a good race. The other thing is you’re going to have really good workouts and really bad workouts, so you have to expect them ahead of time. Just like in the race, you’re going to have really good miles and really bad miles, but that doesn’t mean a really good mile isn’t coming up.

Favorite part of the Boston course…

Linden: I’m more prepared for the last 6 miles than a lot of people—just being really focused on my own race plan for the first 20 and really attacking that last 6. You hit the Newton hills, and you’re climbing, and it feels kind of good to give your quads a little relief. But when you hit that last 6, and you’re not prepared for it, your quads just feel horrible. A downhill advantage goes away if you’ve made mistakes early.

Hastings-Cragg: I’m actually most looking forward to the Newton hills. Obviously Boston is just awesome, so just the feel with spectators is going to be incredible. I’m preparing myself to feel good coming off the downhill so I can push the hills.

Boston-specific training…

Hastings-Cragg: I think Boston is a course where you can really well by learning the course. If you went into not knowing anything about it, it would hurt you. In Chicago, I went there ahead of time just so I knew where I was. It’s nice to be able to recognize things out on the course. My opinion is that it has potential to be a fast course. I’m pretty excited for it—I’ve heard it’s harder than other courses, but I think if you know where to push and know where to back off and push again, it can be really good.

Why everyone should shoot for Boston…

Linden: It’s the everyman’s Olympics. You have to qualify, not everyone earns the jacket. It’s pretty special. And even though we say it’s the everyman’s Olympics, even if you talk to elites here or foreign elites, winning at Boston, being at Boston, it’s a huge honor that not everyone gets to do. Even for us, it’s an experience as well.

Hastings-Cragg: It is the marathon. There’s so much history behind it, and it’s a really cool city. Go run the marathon and just explore around the city afterward. When people talk about the marathon, that’s the one they talk about. You have to get a qualifier, which makes it more special. It takes a long time—it’s not one you can just decide to do four months ahead of time. It’s a long-term goal.

Comments on doping…

Linden: It’s definitely frustrating, it’s upsetting. The biggest thing for me is control the controllables, and that’s just taking care of yourself. Last year I couldn’t do that no matter what, so I have to focus on my own race and do my best. I think that’s where I generally stand on the issue. I just have to make sure I’m focusing on myself.

Plans for the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon…

Linden: I think Boston is really exciting because it’s kind of a preview for [the trials]. Amy is going to be a big contender, Shalane is probably the favorite for sure. So it’s nice to line up with them and see where you fit in. Boston will be a good preview of what I’m at and what adjustments I have to make to make another Olympic team.

Hastings-Cragg: Boston is actually a step toward [the trials] more than anything. I’m still going to compete against Desi, Shalane and Kara as well as a bunch of other incredible women. I want to prove to myself that I can be up there in the group with them again and hopefully compete for a spot on the team. (Cragg missed the 2012 U.S. marathon team by one spot.)

First post-Boston splurge…

Linden: Normally they tell you to have the recovery drink right away. I have two weeks after the race to recover, so I go straight to the beer honestly.

Hastings-Cragg: I want to go get canolies in Old Town. That’s a good post-marathon recovery treat.