The Boston marathoners didn't face particularly good circumstances for the race — but it didn't slow everyone down. On Monday, Desiree Linden won the Boston Marathon, the first American woman to do so in over three decades.
Braving some seriously nasty weather conditions, Linden won amongst women with an unofficial time of 2:39:54. If that seems slow to you, you're not alone — since 1985, there hasn't been a winning time above 2:30. The conditions likely slowed down the entire pack. Linden, a veteran runner from California, competed on the American Olympic team in 2012 and 2016, and she was only two seconds behind the Boston winner in 2011.
2011 was Linden's first Boston Marathon, and she finished that with a personal best time of 2:22:38. This time, she didn't come close to getting another personal record, finishing over 17 minutes away from it — but claiming a title that has eluded American women for so long is another type of victory all together.
Linden wasn't ahead for the whole race, which she told boston.com was part of her strategy — and then she pulled it off to a T. Until the 30k mark, she said, she enjoys the atmosphere and the funny sign and follows her instincts. At 30k — a marathon is just over 42k — she told boston.com, "It’s kind of like the blinders go up."
Linden did end up making her move around 30k, and she didn't let up after that point. Although her time is "slow" amongst elite runners, the median marathon finishing time for women in 2015 was 4:45:30 — so Linden's time of 2:39:54 was still pretty stellar. Breaking that down, her average mile time was just a little bit over six minutes. Amateur runners can complete dozens of long distance races — and still never even come close to achieving that.
“If you break the tape in Boston, not sure what else could top that,” Linden told boston.com before the race — and she didn't even need her best time to do it.
The men's winner in the Boston Marathon also set a new milestone for his country. Yuki Kawauchi won with an unofficial time of 2:15:58, becoming the first Japanese man to do so in 31 years and capturing the first major marathon victory of his career. And again, the weather likely played a role, as recent male Boston victors have run significantly faster times — but not in weather like that.
The Boston Globe reports that the race organizers made at least one concession to the weather: they gave racers two bibs, one for an outer layer and one for an inner layer, just in case they wanted to remove an outer later and still be identifiable. The temperature at the finish line conditions around 11am was 46 degrees — which would be an ideal running temperature for a long race, if not for the gusting rain and wind.
The second place women's finisher was also an American, Sarah Sellers, who clocked in at 4 minutes, 11 seconds behind Linden. While Linden entered the race as a known quantity and one of those being discussed as a potential American to break the drought, Sellers was an unknown. Another racer mentioned as a potential winner was Shalane Flanagan, who won New York in 2017 and has represented the U.S. in the Olympics four times. Flanagan took a short — read: 13.86 seconds — bathroom break, which took her out of the lead pack — until Linden slowed down a bit to help her Olympic teammate back into the leading pack. Maybe the good karma helped propel Linden to the victory — or maybe it was the hours of training, the immense concentration, and the sprinkle of luck that an athlete needs for any big win.