And, turns out, she had thoughts of quitting mid-race due to the pouring rain and freezing temperatures.
A nasty headwind and bone-chilling rain didn't stop Desiree Linden from putting her best foot forward at the Boston Marathon on Monday morning. The two-time Olympian became the first American woman to win the race since 1985, pulling away at the end of Heartbreak Hill to finish in 2 hours, 39 minutes, 54 seconds. (ICYWW, Here's Why the Boston Marathon Is Such a Big Deal)
Linden finished four whole minutes before second-place finisher Sarah Sellers, who was one of seven Americans in the top 10. On the men's side, American runners took six of the top 10 spots. Linden actually had the slowest time for a women's winner since 1978 thanks to the drenching rain, temperatures in the mid-30s, and gusts of up to 32 mph. (Related: This Woman Ran 26.2 Miles Along the Boston Marathon Route While Pushing Her Quadrepelic Boyfriend)
"I've done two Boston marathons in pretty bad conditions," Linden tells Shape. "The first was during the Nor'easter in 2007 and then 2015 was pretty tough as well. But this was one of the toughest conditions I've ever run in my life. It was definitely the kind of day where little mistakes were magnified and you got depleted super early because you're doing so much to stay warm. Honestly, I really didn't think it was going to be my day out there." (Related: Shalane Flannagan Shares How Her Dream of Winning the Boston Marathon Changed to Just Surviving It)
So much so that a few miles in, Linden even contemplated dropping out of the race to avoid putting her body through so much stress.
But somehow, circumstances lined up for her perfectly. "At one point, Shalane and I worked together to close up a gap and then later I tried to lead Molly Huddle back to the group when she fell behind," she says. "So I was doing little things just knowing that I might step off but then turned around and realized I'd actually put a pretty big gap on the field."
It wasn't until she was close to the finish line that Linden realized she basically had it in the bag. "I was still taking it mile by mile, and even after I took the lead I figured I'd get chewed up last minute," she says. "But once I got on Boylston, I felt like there was a chance I'd actually win the darn thing."
What fueled Linden in those final moments was her near-win at the 2011 Boston Marathon where she lost by two seconds. "It felt like I had missed the opportunity of a lifetime back then and it's been picking at me ever since," she says. "I knew I'd have to give it my all to get an opportunity like that again."
Thankfully she did. After crossing the finish line, Linden only had one thing on her mind, and it wasn't her first-place finish: "Where's my hot towel?" she joked. "I was just so ecstatic. It was a culmination of so many years of hard work and training trying to get a big win and to do it on the Boston course on such a memorable day ended up being more special than I could have ever imagined."
Six Boston Marathons later, it's safe to say Linden definitely deserved this hard-earned win.