Shalane Flanagan took a surprising detour during the 122nd running of the Boston Marathon Monday.
Over an hour into the race, Flanagan stopped to use what television announcers referred to as a “portable facility.”
The move was unusual for an elite runner, but iconic marathoner Katherine Switzer said on the WBZ broadcast Flanagan should be able to make up for the time lost because of the slower pace of Monday’s race.
Perhaps what was more surprising, however, was fellow American Desiree Linden’s decision to wait for Flanagan to catch up — a move that demonstrated unity and respect. The pair were chatting throughout the early miles of the course, but Linden pulled ahead later in the course and went on to win.
“Honestly, early on in the race I was feeling horrible. I nudged Shalane saying I might drop out, and told her if you need something let me know,” Linden said. “And so she nudged me and said she was going to the bathroom, so I said well it’s slowing up, but if not I’ll try to tuck in and bring you back to the group.”
Flanagan said her pit stop was just a matter of nature calling.
“The pace was slow, and I was just being a lady,” she said.
Flanagan acknowledged Linden’s gesture was uncommon.
“The only other person I know who would do that is my teammate, Amy [Cragg]. So it’s very uncommon,” Flanagan said.
Flanagan wasn’t worried about losing too much time.
“I knew I could get back to the pack if it was slow enough, so that was a calculated risk I took,” she said. “Des certainly didn’t have to wait. That was very kind of her to do that. She didn’t have to do that.”
Steve Hanson, Linden’s coach, said Linden’s decision to wait was partly out of respect, partly strategic.
“I think that she has a great deal of respect for Shalane, and I think that Shalane having won New York, there was somebody that would work with her in the late stages if it came down to them two,” Hanson said. “I think that more than anything that she didn’t want Shalane to be out the back door yet. She wanted her to be there. She wasn’t ready to go to the front yet, and didn’t want to go to the front. She wanted to know that if she went to the front, there was going to be someone there every step of the way from then on out, because the headwind was too brutal.
“All I was hoping was that no one in the group made a big move at that time while that was happening. I was hoping it didn’t cost them because someone made a move, and they didn’t.”
Linden said in a postrace television interview that she waited for Flanagan to catch up because she thought she might fall behind the leaders of the race anyway, and could possibly drop out of the race. The delay cost her approximately 10 to 15 seconds. She won by more than four minutes.