Distance runner Desiree Linden took her achievements to a new height Tuesday, becoming the first woman to run 50K under three hours.
Linden, who won the Boston Marathon in 2018, covered the 31-mile course outside Eugene, Oregon, in 2 hours, 59 minutes, 54 seconds. That easily bettered the women’s 50K world record of 3:07:20 set by Great Britain’s Aly Dixon in 2019.
Running sub-3:00 was “what we circled,” Linden said. “To be me that was the big high-end goal. It’s nice to achieve that. Aly Dixon took a nice chunk of time off (the 50K record). She’s been so supportive of this effort. It speaks to women in sports and women in running specifically. We want to push things forward, we want to see progress and recognition. We got a little bit of pushback on hyping this event, but that’s the point. Let’s get people excited. I hope this record does move forward.”
Linden, 37, was at 1:15.47 at 13.1 miles and 2:31.12 at 26.2, the ending point for her usual marathon distance.
“I was a little bit disappointed to be at 2:31 because I’m used to marathon times,” she said. “Around 24 miles or so, I felt like this is about to get very, very tough. It’s not just get to the (marathon) finish line, it’s pass through and then you have actual abyss you want to take on (beyond marathon distance). At this point it was like try and lock in 5:46/5:47 (miles) for the rest of the day.
“I was very conscious of I want this to be under three hours.”
Linden was fourth at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2:29.03, missing out by one place on her third Olympic berth. She was unable to finish the marathon at the 2012 Olympics due to a stress fracture and finished seventh at the 2016 Olympics in 2:26.08. Her marathon personal best is 2:22.38 at Boston in 2011.
Since missing out on the Tokyo Olympic marathon team, Linden has become creative with her goals including running almost 500 miles one month last fall in what she dubbed RunDestober. That helped to prepare her for the 50K attempt, staged by her agent Josh Cox and others.
Cox broke the American men’s 50K record in 2009 and 2011 (missing the world record by seven seconds) at the Arizona Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. He also was among the organizers of The Marathon Project held Dec. 20 in Chandler where Sara Hall of Flagstaff became the second fastest U.S. women’s marathoner in 2:20.32.
Linden spent a month in Arizona training for her 50K attempt.
“We found some new places to do workouts that were incredibly challenging but beautiful roads, super wide shoulders to run on,” she said. “Arizona will always be a staple in my winter training.
“Josh was super helpful in all of this, just understanding the distance. The nutrition conversation was so important in how to manage that and not overdue it out there. Then just calming the nerves and his understanding of both the marathon and this distance and the ultra world.”
Linden said she plans to go back to the marathon and competing at World Majors as long as she remains competitive at that distance.
“If I’m finishing top five, top 10, contending at the front is exciting to me and I love competing on that level,” she said. “If that gets too far away from me then I’ll shift and make sure I’m enjoying what I’m doing.”