BOSTON – American Desiree Linden led the 2015 Boston Marathon for many miles, but couldn’t hang on to the top spot, unable to keep up with a breakaway pack of three women who pulled away around Cleveland Circle.
Linden, 31, finished fourth among the women on Monday in a time of 2:25:39, less than a minute behind winner Caroline Rotich of Kenya. Rotich and Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia sprinted shoulder-by-shoulder down Boylston Street toward the finish line, with Rotich out-kicking Dibaba at the end for the victory.
Linden readily acknowledges she is a strength runner – in her word, a “grinder” – not a speed runner, so her plan for the race was to lead if no one else was going to push the pace. Doing that, she hoped, would thin the pack as the race wore on and leave fewer women for her to have to try and out-kick as the finish line approached.
“We kind of worked it around an effort: if we felt someone was going to take it and make it fairly honest for the conditions, then I would have been just as happy to tuck in, and there was a couple of times I tested that out,” Linden explained. “Someone would creep up on my shoulder and it felt like, ‘ok, they’re ready to pick it up’ and I would tuck in, and then it would just slow down, so I would go back to the front.
“But I couldn’t let [the pace] get too soft and the more people that are in there late, the further back in the race I’m going to finish. If that means me doing a little more work on the front, then I was comfortable with that.”
Linden has been close to a win at Boston before – she was second to Caroline Kilel in 2011, the best finish for an American woman since Lisa Larsen Rainsberger won this event 30 years ago. That race came down to a sprint down Boylston as well, and Linden was runner up by just 2 seconds.
Last year, she finished 10th overall.
A California native who trains out of Michigan, Linden suffered a major setback in 2012 when she was diagnosed with a femoral (thigh bone) stress fracture. She referenced the injury a couple of times on Monday afternoon.
“I’m not an emotional person, but today was huge for me, from what I overcame in 2012, after an injury and coming back and taking step by step by step and being back on this stage, I’m really proud of myself,” Linden said. “You don’t get those moments too often so I’m going to soak it in and be happy and then go back to being a competitor and try to make that next leap forward and be racing down Boylston again. But today was just as big as 2011 for me.”
Linden believes some may question her strategy of pushing the pace, particularly because there was a headwind that got stronger as the race progressed, but she believes it was the right tactic.
“That’s the way you have to run on this course: you have to be gritty and aggressive and be in for a long day of pain, and I think that’s why I do well here,” she said. “My coaches, Kevin and Keith Hanson, train us out in Michigan just for that. I’ll certainly keep coming back and keep giving it a shot and hopefully have that breakthrough here.”
Massachusetts-born Shalane Flanagan, who has been battling some injuries of late, finished ninth overall in 2:27:47. In all, there were 11 American women among the top 25 finishers.
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