Desiree Linden and Jordan Hasay came into the 2019 Boston Marathon with different kinds of pressure. Linden was the defending champion, Hasay on the comeback from a year of stress fractures.
When Worknesh Degefa of Ethiopia, the eventual winner, decided to surge at mile five, she caused disruption in the lead pack. Hasay, 27, with three marathons to her name, was nervous. Linden, 35, a two-time Olympian, was embarking on her seventh race on the course and was less so.
Linden decided to share a little wisdom.
“I told her to go out harder,” Linden deadpanned at the press conference after the race. “No, I’m just kidding.”
In fact, she told Hasay and fellow American Sara Hall, the 2017 U.S. marathon champion who was running for the first time in Boston, that it might be too early to try to match too many moves—wasting energy in the first half might come back to bite them in the hilly second half.
“It seemed really aggressive and [Hasay] was covering a lot,” Linden said. “We weren’t running tangents. I just said, ‘Be patient on the tangents, this is the group we need to be in.’ It was just a lot of emotional decisions and it seemed like the right thing to do.”
Hasay, who is the second-fastest female U.S. marathoner of all time (2:20:57), listened to the veteran, followed her cues, and it resulted in a third-place, 2:25:20 finish. It was her third third-place finish in the three marathons she’s raced.
“I’m still learning so I got a little anxious when the top three went,” Hasay said. “I was just going by feel. Des just said, ‘There’s a long race to go, just be patient.’ I was anxious with all the different surges, but I figured if I followed [Linden], I was definitely running the tangents.”
Why would anybody help a competitor in the middle of a race?
“We’re running as Team USA, really,” Linden said. “You want [the U.S.] to succeed. She could take it or leave it, but I felt like there’s a level of comfort because we’ve run together so much.”
Linden, who overcame the historic rain, wind, and freezing temperatures in 2018 to become the first American woman in 33 years to win the Boston Marathon, is notorious for lending a hand. Last year, when Shalane Flanagan, the 2017 New York City champion, took a 13-second bathroom stop during the Boston Marathon, Linden slowed down to help Flanagan rejoin the lead group. Linden then went on to try to help Molly Huddle bridge the gap to the leaders—Huddle wasn’t able to follow her, but the effort rejuvenated Linden’s race, propelling her to the crown.
This year, Linden ended up in fifth place in 2:27:00.
“There was just a lot of really interesting moves and tactics going on in the first half. I had a rough patch—a lot of rough patches—but [miles] eight to 15, I didn’t know if I was going to have enough glycogen to get to the end of this,” she said.
In the end, she said she was proud of the result and enjoyed the immense crowd support along the way, especially the roar of applause on Boylston Street, as she approached the finish line.
“I love this city and I always come in and give everything I have and today that was fifth,” Linden said. “Whatever the weather, whatever the field looks like, I’m always going to come out here and represent myself really well. When I do decide to walk away [from pro running], this will feel like my home course.”
American Lindsay Flanagan finished in ninth place. Because the trio landed in the top 10 of a World Marathon Majors race, they have achieved a 2020 Olympic standard. The U.S. Olympic Trials will be held in February, in Atlanta, and USA Track & Field hasn’t yet announced how the 2020 team will be selected, but traditionally the runners who have the Olympic standard and finish in the top three at the trials, are selected to Team USA.
“Heard I was 11th with a mile to go,” Flanagan wrote on Instagram, “and knew I needed to dig deep.”