BY THE END of the first seven miles of the 2018 Boston Marathon, elite runner Desiree Linden was feeling listless and awful. A torrential downpour and freezing winds had prevented her from warming up the way she normally did, and she had reset her expectations for the race. Mid-stride, her own hopes dashed, she turned to fellow American Shalane Flanagan and told her to let her know if she needed any help blocking the wind or adjusting the pace.
Five months before Boston the 36-year-old Flanagan had become the first woman from the U.S. to win the New York City Marathon since Miki Gorman in 1977, and she was deemed a contender to end a similar 33-year drought in Boston. Linden, 34, was a dark-horse contender, but after realizing it was not going to be her day, she switched her purpose to providing support for her friend.
It wasn't long before Flanagan did need help. Midway through the race Flanagan stopped for a 14-second bathroom break. Pausing during a marathon usually ends an elite runner's chances of winning, but Linden slowed down to wait for Flanagan to pace her. The duo then worked together to rejoin the lead pack, which had tried to pull away.
A near-gale headwind made that difficult, but by mile 22 Linden had unexpectedly hit her stride again. "Helping her helped me, and I kind of got my legs back," Linden said after the race.
Linden pulled away after Hearbreak Hill and ran alone to the finish, winning by more than four minutes, in 2:39:54. Flanagan, who finished seventh, thanked Linden for being "a true friend and teammate on the course."
Nice girls finish first.