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Shalane Flanagan versus Desiree Linden: Why Boston 2018 will be iconic for women’s running

The 2018 Boston Marathon could be the marathon of the year and it will certainly be a huge one for the elite women's running community

My calendar is marked. April 16, 2018 is going to be a special day in Boston with almost of all of America’s top female marathoners taking to the starting line. There are countless intriguing story lines to look forward to in this scenario, but none are more fascinating to me than that of Shalane Flanagan and Desiree Linden going head-to-head.

Both of these women are fierce competitors, who have made it clear in the past that winning Boston is top on their list of career goals. And, they have both come close to achieving this goal. In 2011, Linden was part of one the most exciting charges down Boylston Street in recent memory, when she came up just two seconds short of the victory finishing in a time of 2:22:38. Linden’s time stood as the U.S. Boston course record until Flanagan broke it in 2014, running 2:22:02 and placing seventh overall and being the first American.

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Boston seems to almost haunt both of these athletes, driving them to continue in the pursuit of victory. In the interviews I’ve seen with Linden, there seems to be a sense of unfinished business when Boston comes up. She has also been clear that it stung not to pull out the win in 2011 after being so very close to the ultimate prize.

As for Flanagan, the drive for victory in Boston has been riddled with highs and lows – all of which are felt deeply by the Massachusetts native, who grew up surrounded by Boston Marathon culture. She wants to bring an American victory to Bostonians.

Shalane Flanagan
Photo: Kelly Doyle.

Adding to the intensity for both these runners in 2018, is the fact they’re both coming off disappointing experiences in 2017. Flanagan suffered a significant injury in early 2017, which kept her out of Boston. I recall reading interviews with her and recognizing the hurt she felt at having to pull out of Boston. You can bet Flanagan is going to be pumped to be lining up in 2018, coming off her historic win at the New York City Marathon. She will also be thinking about getting the job done in Boston before retiring, which she was considering after her win in New York.

Linden’s disappointment in 2017 came on the course of the Boston Marathon. After being vocal in wanting nothing less than a win, she ended up placing fourth behind fellow American Jordan Hasay – who made her debut. In her post-race interviews, she conveyed a beautiful display of the inherent vulnerability of competing with such intensity. 

While these two athletes have quite different racing styles, what I revere about both of them is their ability and willingness to put themselves out there time and time again in pursuit of their dreams. Neither are afraid to fail, nor are they paralyzed by the immense pressure placed on them by themselves and others. They go for it, they compete with all they have, and they have consistently display remarkable resilience. I can’t imagine a more intriguing and inspiring duo lining up to race the streets of Boston on April 16, 2018.