The reigning Boston Marathon champion is ready to race on Sunday, not just tune up.
Desiree Linden continues to shake up her routine on the way to defending her Boston Marathon title. On Sunday at the NYC Half, the two-time Olympian is looking to compete at the front—straying from how she’s approached the race in the past.
Linden, a two-time Olympian who last year became the first American woman to win Boston in 33 years, departed the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project team shortly after her victory. She has been training with Walter Drenth, her former Arizona State University coach, ever since, in an effort to keep her running fresh and see how much more she can still accomplish after 13 years in the sport.
Last year Linden, 35, finished the NYC Half eighth, in 1:13:33, using it as a hard workout effort in the lead up to Boston, instead of a pure racing opportunity. On Sunday, she has a different strategy in mind.
“This will be an opportunity to practice covering moves, handle race stress, and compete,” Linden said on Monday, during a conference call with the media. “It’ll be a different Des out there, I guess.”
The half marathon course, which starts in Prospect Park in Brooklyn and makes its way through Midtown Manhattan to end near the New York City Marathon finish line in Central Park, offers plenty of hills, which is also good preparation for Boston’s undulating terrain. Until last year, the route in New York used to start in Central Park and end Downtown in the Financial District, making for a fast second half on the flat West Side Highway.
“I think [the old course] made me lazy in the past,” Linden said. “[The new route] kept me more mentally focused and sharp. Being present for 13.1 miles is good practice for the marathon.”
As a runner who relies more on her strength and endurance over speed, Linden also likes her chances better on a more challenging course. She’ll be competing with women like Joyciline Jepkosgei (1:04:51) and Mary Wacera (1:06:29) of Kenya, and defending champion Buze Diriba of Ethiopia, who have much faster personal-best times than her own (1:10:34). She said she’s ready to “put on the uniform” and “knock heads” with the field.
“You can make it more of a tactical race,” Linden said. “You have to decide when to make move and when to relax.”
Other Americans who are scheduled to compete on Sunday include Emma Bates, who won her debut 26.2-mile race in December at the California International Marathon; Sarah Crouch, first American at the 2018 Chicago Marathon; Kellyn Taylor, winner of the 2018 Grandma’s Marathon (2:24:28); and Sara Sellers, runner-up at the 2018 Boston Marathon. Allie Kieffer is also on the start list, but on March 2, she dropped out of the Road to Gold 8.2-mile race in Atlanta with pain in her back and hamstring.
As for Linden, although her home base is Charlevoix, Michigan, she’s training in Phoenix, enjoying the weather and having proximity to John Ball, a chiropractic sports physician, as well as running buddies like Molly Huddle and Emily Sisson, who are training for the London Marathon.
“I’m in this one-bedroom apartment and I’m trying not to be social but I keep running into people,” she said. “It’s a good balance of being social and a training-camp mentality…I run with more people than I have since departing from the Hansons.”
As she racks up the miles on the way to Boston on April 15, Linden said that Drenth has increased the volume and intensity of hard workout days.
“It still feels really new…I’ve had a couple of weeks when I don’t know if I can make it to the end,” she said. “It all feels different. I hope it gives me the potential to get a result I’ve never had before.”
How to Watch the 2019 NYC Half
On Sunday, the NYC Half will be broadcast two ways (all times are Eastern):