Of the most iconic marathons to run in the world – choose your own top five or so – New York City is right up there with my picks of London, Chicago, Berlin, Boston and perhaps Fukuoka or Tokyo or Paris. There are several more that could also make the cut.
New York is iconic partly because, well, it’s Gotham after all, plus the race isn’t just about super-fast times, but about placement, like cross-country running. It’s a racer’s race; there are no pacers and the course rolls. Like its winners, it possesses character. The race is also iconic because of some of the noteworthy performances and battles that have taken place over the years, including one of the all-time most memorable when Englishman Geoff Smith was overtaken by a late-charging (and cramping) Kiwi Rod Dixon with just 200-metres to go. It was the 1983 edition and Dixon crossed the line in the time of 2:08:59. His image with arms raised, looking skyward, is the stuff of legend.
There was the 1994 mishap by German Silva, who ran off course half a mile from the finish. He and fellow Mexican, Benjamin Paredes, were in a deadlock tie. Silva followed a police car the wrong way but managed to get back on course and take the win.
Starting with her 1979 win, Norway’s Grete Waitz won nine times of 11 attempts. Her fastest New York finish was 2:25:42, just 48 seconds off of her own personal best from London in 1986, where she finished in the time of 2:24:54.
There was the year of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which saw a cancellation of the event.
Then there was Alberto Salazar’s win seemingly from a cloud of dust, in 1981. In 2009, Meb Keflezhigi won, breaking a 27-year American drought. He finished in the time of 2:09:15. Shalane Flanagan followed in 2017, becoming just the fifth American woman to win and first in 30 years. These are just a few of the indelible moments that are etched in the memories of New Yorkers and marathon fans around the world.
Americans grapple with their heroes and elevate them to a level that transcends sports (which is a good thing). Currently, Des Linden, has quickly become Keflezighi’s counterpart as a character athlete that the general public can relate to, or are perhaps America’s answer to the citizen runner Yuki Kawauchi, the Japanese man that races marathons without pretence, runs as many as he can fit in to his life schedule and is physically able to pull off, often at a world-class level. Kawauchi’s career is one that people can relate to. His performances are fast, his joy during competition is palpable, and he works in an office for a living, full time.
Linden, from Chula Vista area has been one of America’s top marathon runners for some time, but the moment that she stepped into the limelight to transcend the sport was in one of those iconic marathons that I listed above – at the 2018 edition of the Boston Marathon. The weather was horrendous, it was cold, and windy with heavy rains. While other international-level athletes dropped like flies or did not start or just ran poorly, Linden powered on to win. She is, like Meb and Yuki, a citizen runner.
There is likely no timelier marathon race for Linden’s stature and career than running the 2018 New York City Marathon; it will be another character runner in an iconic event.
Her participation was announced recently that she had made that decision.
Linden ran New York in 2014 finishing fifth overall. She is a two-time Olympian and owns a best of 2:22:38.
“Breaking the tape at this year’s Boston Marathon was a lifelong dream come true,” Linden said. “At the moment, it felt like it was the culmination of my career, but I believe I still have plenty more to give to the marathon. I’m thrilled to head to the TCS New York City Marathon this fall. I’m motivated to get back on the big stage that NYRR will undoubtedly put together and intend to make a name for myself in another great city.”
The 34-year-old has had eight top-five finishes in the World Marathon Majors. She finished second at the 2010 Chicago and 2011 Boston marathons and fifth in Berlin in 2013 and New York in 2014.
Asked about her personal reaction to winning Boston Linden told Athletics Illustrated, “I think it was a combination of disbelief that it actually happened, and also an enormous weight off that I hadn’t realized I’d been carrying around forever, I finally had accomplished something that would mark my career as a success.”
As for New York, continued successes will be a bonus, adding, “The beauty of getting a meaningful win is that I can be as picky as I want moving forward. The rest of my career is the gravy so I don’t want to overindulge; I just want to pick races and events that are really meaningful to me.”
Perhaps New York 2018 will be another indelible moment to etch in the memories of run fans everywhere. For Linden, whatever happens, she will always be a winner.