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And while her career statistics show sterling performances that put her among the fastest American women of all time (her PR, a at Boston in 2011, ranks sixth on the list), people tend to forget everything but a W.
Even as Linden strode down the final stretch to the 2018 Boston finish line and the biggest moment of her career, Paul Swangard, commentating the race live for NBC Sports, called her a “blue-collar kind of runner.” Linden hasn’t watched a replay of that race, but sometimes when she’s in the middle of a run, coasting along the dirt roads surrounding her Michigan home, she’ll think about it and literally laugh out loud.
The race she had worked toward for more than a decade—the Boston Marathon.
That marathon win, three months earlier, was the first of her career and came after a string of second-place finishes had her wondering if she’d ever break the tape.
A long dirt driveway leads from the door of Desiree Linden’s Lake Michigan home out to the road and the miles of rolling hills that wind past dairy farms and fruit stands.
It’s mid-July, a.m., and the temperature has already climbed into the 80s with the humidity hanging like a sweater.
She and her older sister, Natalie, were always athletic.
Linden played four years of varsity high school soccer, a winter sport in Southern California, which left the fall for cross country and the spring for track.
A résumé filled with second and fourth places combined with Linden’s 5-foot-1, 96-pound frame—petite, even for an elite marathoner—make viewers think of her as an underdog.Linden was “immediately exceptional,” Natalie Davila says. Ninth grade, varsity meet, beating the senior boys.”For college, Arizona State’s coach, Walt Drenth, appealed to her with his no-nonsense approach and the culture he had created, where working hard was expected.Linden describes the vibe as, “Our team is really good.She wasn’t training like a pro—she was training like the college kid she was, working less in the offseason than some teammates, studying more.She was All-American in cross-country and on the track, but never close to winning an NCAA title.