May 11, 2021

Sports Legend

How marathoner Des Linden ventured into ‘the unknown’ and broke the 50km record


These are two of her drinks of choice as she toasted to become the first woman to run 50 kilometers in less than three hours on April 13, her time of 2:59:54 on a course near Eugene, Ore., breaking the previous record of nearly seven. -one and a half minutes.

“The best thing that has ever happened when talking about bourbon publicly is that there are a ton of bourbon fans out there and they all want to share it with you,” said Linden, a self-proclaimed connoisseur of the spirit, at CNN Sport.

“I got a ton of bourbon and whiskey and we had a really nice one that was about 66 months old or something – it was wonderful.

The celebrations were well deserved. A seasoned marathoner who had never run beyond 42km before, Linden clocked an average pace of five minutes, 47 seconds per mile over 50km to dive below the three-hour mark and win the record over Briton Alyson Dixon .

Linden crosses the finish line at last month's event.
READ: Meet the ‘Iron Cowboy’ pushing the limits of human endurance

Race beyond the marathon

Linden, 37, decided to take the 50km record to fill a gap in his racing schedule that would typically have been occupied by a spring marathon.

Last October, she achieved a unique feat – nicknamed “Destober” – which consisted of covering a distance corresponding to each day of the month: one mile on the first day, two on the second, before finishing with a 31-mile race in October. . 31.

This proved to be a catalyst for attempting the 50k in April, the ramp up that involved running between 110 and 115 miles each week with grueling speed sessions incorporated into her long 20, 22, 24 and 26 mile runs. .

The training was designed to prepare Linden to run beyond the distance of a marathon.

“I was running 25, 26 miles and you’re starting to feel that marathon fatigue where your feet are sticking to the ground, your energy level is low and you still have a long way to go,” she says, reflecting on the last month. Event.

“What was particularly difficult about this course was that we have passed that 26.2 mile mark and you are pulling away from the start / finish line.

“You get further away from your home to a certain extent, even if you get closer it was a big mental challenge.

Linden makes a turn on the way to the 50 km record.

With no fans on the course and only a pacemaker for the company, it turned out to be a new racing experience for Linden. Keeping to the target pace on the round-trip route, which meandered along a deserted cycle path near Lake Dorena, required a focused mindset.

“It was those long stretches of absolutely beautiful scenery,” says Linden.

“There are horses on the side of the road galloping at the same pace as us and it’s beautiful, but we could easily fall asleep … because there was no real energy around.

“Physically I just felt super locked in and really well prepared … the main challenge was that the last five, six miles where it was like, ‘I’ve never been here before and I have to keep my head up to make sure I get the disc and the sub three. ‘”

READ: At 37, marathoner Sara Hall loves her sport more than ever

“ Big shoot ” in Boston

With the 50 km distance unrecognized by World Athletics, Linden’s time does not count as an official world record – rather described as a “world best” by the sport’s governing body.

But as far as she is concerned, it all means the same thing.

“These are just words, aren’t they?” Linden said. “When you simplify it to the general public, no one in the world has done that before, and it’s still pretty special.

“If we can make the event more popular and more people start doing it, maybe World Athletics will rethink their stance on this.”

After competing in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, Linden narrowly missed a spot on the U.S. marathon team for Tokyo, finishing fourth at last year’s trials in Atlanta, where the top three qualified.

A substitute for this year’s Olympics if a team member has to retire, Linden is also aiming for the Boston Marathon in October.
In 2018, she battled wind, rain and biting cold to become the first American to win Boston since 1985 – a performance she hopes to repeat later this year.
Linden celebrates after crossing the finish line at the 2018 Boston Marathon.

“Winning Boston is always the goal when I enter and it will be interesting to see how the fields come together and what it feels like in the fall,” she said, with the race past its usual date. April in the midst of the pandemic.

“I am delighted to be able to train at my home in Charlevoix, Michigan, because I think this region is just perfect for preparing for a Boston-type class. I’m definitely aiming for a big class in October.

And when it comes to ultra-racing – defined as any run beyond a marathon – the 50km record may well have been the start for Linden.

“It’s fascinating to walk into this stranger and say, ‘I’ve never been here before,’” she says.

“It was all so foreign, fresh and new, and I think that got me excited about the longer and longer distances… it’s about questioning myself and testing these strangers.

“Obviously there’s a ton of distance to go there. I think I could see myself going a little longer and flirting with this thing for a while.”