There’s a magic and prestige to the Boston Marathon that’s hard to articulate. It’s an exclusive club that’s technically possible for mere mortals to join, but every year gets more competitive, so even the people who meet the criteria on paper still may not be fast enough to win the lottery and actually run the race. I’ve long made my peace with never qualifying for Boston (my current PR would qualify a woman at age 75, so I figure I don’t need to get faster, just older), but that doesn’t make me love watching the race any less.
Desiree Linden won the Boston Marathon today, making her the first American woman to do so since 1985. The conditions couldn’t have been worse, between rain and cold and wind, but her grit persevered and she finally came out on top. From the explosion on twitter, I know I’m not alone in feeling as though we all won today. Des is one of my favorite runners, but she isn’t flashy — in fact, that’s among the reasons I admire her so much. She’s known for her consistency (and for being a whiskey aficionado, but that’s for after the race). She runs her race at her pace. Always. She puts in the work and is an exceptionally strong runner, competing in multiple Olympics and making the podium on several races, but has never finished first. In fact she’s so humble, this morning she voluntarily held back while teammate and competitor Shalane Flanagan stopped to use a port-a-potty, and then helped her get back with the lead pack of runners. Always a bridesmaid, never a marathon winner.
Watching Des go from sacrificial lamb, to back with the pack, to breaking away, to eventually taking the lead was more of an emotional ride than I anticipated. I fully expected Shalane to follow up her NYC Marathon win with another victory in Boston, and I was admittedly disappointed when both she and Des slowed down for a pitstop.
But running is never that linear. Today we witnessed the heart and perseverance it takes to win, even against inclement weather or unfortunate circumstances. No matter how many reasons there are to quit, there’s always something deeper inside us that drives us to keep going. Beyond that, we witnessed the power of sportsmanship, of women helping other women, and of all the glory that can come when you refuse to give up on yourself.
So tonight as I drink my whiskey in honor of the aficionado herself, I raise my glass to Des and to everyone one of us who keeps putting in the work and continues to show up. Keep helping one another, and keep believing in yourself. Cheers!