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Boston Marathon winner Desiree Linden changes strategy but falls short of goal

Desiree Linden crosses the finish line in Central

Desiree Linden crosses the finish line in Central Park to become the first American-born woman to complete the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. She finished sixth overall with a time of 2:26.46. Credit: James Escher

Desiree Linden saw the sun, felt the wind at her back, and took her shot. The 36-year-old on Sunday showed no allegiance to the adage, ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ She went out hard in the 49th running of the New York City Marathon, looking to see if she could build an insurmountable early lead and maybe challenge the American course record of 2 hours, 25 minutes, 53 seconds, set by Oregon’s Kara Goucher in 2008.

“I know the back half of the course is tough but, honestly, I was eyeing up the American course record here,” Linden said. “It was a perfect day. We had a little bit of a tail wind in those early miles and I thought ‘lets swing for it.’ It was a good day to take a crack at having a good one.”

As for the win and the record, it was not to be. Linden, who won the 2018 Boston Marathon, finished sixth in 2:26:46, the top American woman. Marathon rookie Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya won in 2:22.38.

“It was a super nice day,” Linden said. “Even standing on the bridge, you could feel that it was light wind. When we started, it was at our back. [My coach Walt Drenth] always says, ‘if you can’t run fast on a day like this, you might as well go bowling.’ So, it was a good day to take a big swing.”

Linden, who had a pretty sizable lead in the first two miles, was second at the six-mile mark in 32:59. She led at the 10K point (6.2 miles) in 34:08, running in a tight pack. She remained in the lead at the 20K mark (1:07:54), but was in fifth by the halfway point (1:11.40). Linden alternated between fourth and fifth place for most of the race’s second half and fell to sixth at the 40K mark (2:18.45).

“By miles 18 and 19, I was having cramps in my calves and my feet,” Linden said of her second half. “It was really just focusing on hitting the ground right and just stepping off a little bit.”

This was the opposite of the way Linden usually runs, with a positive split — that is, her first half was faster than her second half. But, those are the perils of taking a shot at a fast time early in the race.

“It was about trying something new,” Linden said. “You’re not going to have a breakthrough doing the same thing over and over, being really conservative, and really cautious. It wasn’t about running stupid or dumb, it was just going with the flow of the race. The conditions were really great early.

“I did learn a lot. I think I’ll go back and tweak some things in training. I think maybe we could do a few more long runs or go for a bit longer reps. I just felt like, maybe, around [mile] 18, 19, I started having leg cramp issues. So, maybe a little more strength would be good.”

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