Interviews, Running & Fitness

Catching Up: Interview With Desiree Linden

Matt Orlando
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Welcome back up everyone! Last week I shared with you some insights and wisdom from world-renowned Olympian Meb Keflezighi. This week I am excited to share with you my talk with Olympian and Hanson-Brooks runner Desiree Linden. Desiree was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to share her thoughts on her Trials performance, her upcoming training schedule, some personal insights, and advice for upcoming runners.

For those of you who are not too familiar with Desiree, here’s a quick run down of her running career. She attended Arizona State University where she was a two-time All-American in track and cross-country[1] and teammates with Amy Cragg. After many impressive years of running, including a then record time for an American woman at the Boston marathon in 2011, she made the 2012 US Olympic Team for the marathon. Unfortunately she had to drop out of the race due to stress fracture in her femur. After an impressive 2014-2015 racing season, she successfully qualified for the 2016 US Olympic Team, finishing 2nd at the Olympic Trials in Los Angeles.

And now, let’s hear from Desiree herself.

Welcome back from Bali! How was your well-deserved vacation?

Thank you, it was a fantastic trip. Post-marathon is always a great time to go somewhere exciting and get off the grid. It’s the perfect time to overindulge and go a little nuts but by the end I’m always excited to get home and get back into the running lifestyle.

Let’s get right to it. During the trials, your race strategy seemed to be executed flawlessly. Can you share a little more on the overall plan, how you felt toeing the start line, and any obstacles you faced during the race?

The big goal was to obviously get myself on the team, but I was also seriously trying to get a win in a big race. Kevin, Keith, and I came up with the game plan that we thought would give me the best chance to accomplish both of those without sacrificing the main goal. We knew the heat was going to be a factor and decided 5:40 was the quickest I needed to go at any point before the last lap, but there really wasn’t even a reason to press 5:40s before the second lap. Honestly we didn’t anticipate there being an aggressor and figured it would be a long slow progression from somewhere around mile 16/18ish to the finish. If anything when the break happened I was still a bit too aggressive in some middle miles, running some mid to low 5:30s that slowed me up over my last 10k.

All in all the approach was super calculated and business like. It felt like going through a checklist while I was out there. When I have a dialed in plan like I did out there it really eliminates the need to think about “how do I feel?” because it doesn’t matter, you just move to the next item on the To Do List.

  • hold 5:40s
  • move into 3rd
  • hold Olympic spot position
  • assess what’s available in front of me
  • pick off one person in final 10k
  • become 2x Olympian

What was it like during the late stages of the race knowing that you were on your way to representing Team USA in Rio, especially after a disappointing outcome in London?

It was a pretty unique mix of relief and joy. Over the past four years I worked to put myself in really good position to get the job done so it was a big sigh of relief that I didn’t screw it up on the day. Then there is the joy that comes from achieving something so major. As much as you prepare and position yourself to be a top contender it still takes a hell of an effort on the day to actually make an Olympic team. It was pretty fun to celebrate the work of the last four years in those final few hundred meters with some awkward fist pumps and arm raises to the fans.

What are your thoughts on the strength of both the men’s and women’s team and how they will fare in Rio on the world stage?

It’s super exciting, we have absolutely fantastic teams on both sides. As challenging and brutal as our trials system is it’s great that the athletes select themselves, which means that you automatically have experience and success in a championship style race. I think we’re sending a great blend of talent, experience, speed, strength, and race savvy athletes who should all fair well in a race the never quite goes to form.

Speaking of the Olympics, what are your favorite Olympic sports and athletes to watch?

Oh boy, a few events that I’m looking forward to: women’s triathlon with Sarah True and Gwen Jorgenson, men’s golf (hopefully – Jordan Spieth and Bubba Wattson), sailing, Peter Sagan in road cycling, and US Soccer. So, yeah, just a few!

There’s much less online about you than other athletes, though I did find some pretty incredible wedding photos! Do you purposely keep a low profile?

Ha! Thank you, our photographer was fantastic. I feel like I have had my fair share of coverage over the past several years. I’m not sure how much more personal information I can put out there — likes long walks on the beach, nights in front of the fireplace and sushi. But seriously, I think there are a lot of athletes out there who have just been great for so long that they’re just naturally more well-known, for example Kara (Goucher) and Shalane (Flanagan) who have been superstars since their high school days. Maybe by comparison I seem less well-known but my career hasn’t been worthy of the discussion for nearly as long as theirs.

You come across as pretty low-key but very focused (which was on display at the Trials). Do you think this causes competitors to underestimate you?

Wait, are competitors underestimating me?! When I’m fit and ready to go I really have to force myself to be low-key, I’m usually buzzing with excitement and bouncing off the walls. I feel like the team around me — The Hansons, Ryan, Josh Cox — all help keep me relaxed, focus, and calm so that I can really use all that excitement at the appropriate time.

What are some things that people might be surprised to know about you?

I’m a huge music fan. People always want to know what music I listen to while I’m running, none! It’s probably about the only time during the day that I don’t have headphones on. I secretly want to be the front (wo)man in a rock band but I actually have zero musical talent so I don’t foresee that happening. Look at that, more personal information about me!

What do the upcoming months look like for you?

Right now I’m just getting the mileage back up and working off my Bali belly. Don’t worry the damage wasn’t too bad. I’ll take the next few weeks to work on some shorter distances. In early May we’ll switch back to full marathon mode and up the mileage and the lengthen the sessions significantly. I won’t do any races during the buildup to Rio, just stay put in Michigan and get the work in.

Can you share any advice for young girls out there considering pursuing a career in running?

Running: Have patience and spend less time comparing yourself to others. We all improve and develop at different rates, don’t stress about how you measure up to others just focus on making you a better version of you.

Career: Learn the sport and understand you are now running a business. Don’t sign anything until you comprehend it and agree to it, you are entering an agreement. Think partnership not sponsorship, ask yourself, “what do I bring to the table?” then bring it.

What’s the best way for people to follow along in your journey?

People can connect with me on both Twitter and Instagram.

Be sure to leave some love and support for Desiree in the comments section below!