Des Linden’s win at the Boston Marathon may have come as a surprise to some, but there’s one person who isn’t shocked: her friend and fellow Olympian Shalane Flanagan. Shortly after Flanagan’s win at the New York City Marathon, where she became the first American woman in 40 years to break the tape, Linden tweeted her congratulations: “In tears. Thank you @ShalaneFlanagan for giving us something to believe in. Congratulations!”
Flanagan’s response was supportive (and perhaps a little bit psychic): “Now it’s your turn,” she tweeted.
We saw their friendship play out in real time at the 2018 Boston Marathon. At mile 7, while in the lead pack, Linden could be seen conversing with Flanagan. Initially, it seemed as if the two were discussing race strategy. Flanagan moved to other Americans in the lead pack, including Molly Huddle and Serena Burla, seemingly to relay the plan.
But at mile 12, Flanagan pulled off the pack and made a rush for the bathroom. The competition surged ahead, with one notable exception: Des Linden, who stayed behind to wait for Flanagan. In a post-race interview, Linden shared that she had told Flanagan, “I might drop out today, if you need something, some help or whatever, let me know.” That’s when Flanagan nudged her for the bathroom and the two headed off.
Working together, they rejoined the main pack within a mile, and once Flanagan’s spot was secured, Linden went back to focusing on her race. “When I got back to the group and got connected, Molly was at the front and I thought, ‘Well, I should probably help Molly, and when I turned back I was was fourth, then third and I thought, ‘Well, I probably shouldn’t drop out.'”
Linden went on to win the race in 2:39:54, becoming the first American woman in 33 years to win the Boston Marathon. Flanagan followed in seventh place with a time of 2:46:31. Linden had debated dropping out due to the brutal weather conditions, and had even asked Flanagan how she could help her win. That’s why she waited and pulled Flanagan back into the pack – to keep her friend’s race alive.
“Helping her helped me, and I kind of got my legs back from there,” said Linden. The two are leading the way in the resurgence of American women’s marathon racing, not just for their top performance but their sportsmanship. Through their words and actions, they’re demonstrating that a rising tide lifts all boats, a philosophy all runners can learn from.