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Nearly two years ago, having watched on TV elite distance runner Desiree Linden place second at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, finishing with a time of 2:28:54, I marveled at her steady-strong pacing and cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor — on what was an especially warm day in Los Angeles. I thought to myself, not for the first time, how I’d love the opportunity to meet her in person, to have her as a guest on my podcast. Not only because of her inspiring performance and numerous accomplishments (I had also excitedly watched from my computer as she crossed the finish line and came in second place at the 2011 Boston Marathon), but because she’s a Michigan Runner Girl, just like us. OK, maybe not exactly like us. She has that super speedy thing going on. But she does live here in the Mitten — she and husband (and rockstar Ironman athlete) Ryan Linden train in Rochester Hills with her fellow Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project athletes — and in fact has been spending an increasing amount of time in northern Michigan. I just knew we’d have lots of talk about, and I wanted to share that conversation with the MRG community.
So I did what any respectable blogger and podcaster would do: I commented on one of her tweets, kept up on her Instagram posts, and eventually sent a direct message to her via Twitter, inquiring about her interest in coming on my show. And, she responded. She had a lot going on, with the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio just around the corner (oh, yes, that makes sense, of course…), so she asked if we could talk again later in the year. To which I said “Yes!!” (I hoped she didn’t think I was too much of a stalker…Did I also mention that when I happened to see Ryan at a local race a few months later I approached him with a Michigan Runner Girl pint glass and MRG sticker. “These are for your wife,” I told him. I hoped he didn’t think I was a stalker…)
Fast forward to this past spring, when I ran my 8th marathon and fourth Bayshore in my hometown of Traverse City. While the race didn’t go exactly as I had hoped (an old achilles injury flared just past the halfway mark), a few special things happened that day, including seeing Des on the course holding a sign and cheering on runners AND having the opportunity to talk with her around the 24-mile mark after Emma asked if she’d take a photo with us. Des was so kind and encouraging, just when I needed a boost.
In recent months, Des and I began emailing each other. She shared that she’d be happy to come on my show, that she’d taken a step back from running this past summer but was getting back into a groove. December, she told me, would be a great time to get together. So we did just that, and the result is this latest episode of the Michigan Runner Girl podcast. Des and Ryan made the trek to Traverse City from their home in Charlevoix, about an hour drive, and not only did she sit with me and my co-host Pam Carrigan for an hour for the podcast, she and Ryan also joined Joe and I for dinner out afterward at one of our favorite spots, The Filling Station in Traverse City.
During this episode, Pam and I talk with Des about her self-imposed break from running following this last spring’s Boston Marathon (where she finished fourth), how she spent this time away from the sport, when and how she re-discovered a hunger for competitive running, the half marathon she recently won, and lots more, including how she got started running (she was a soccer player from the age of 5) and what it was like for her to watch Shalane Flanagan win this fall’s New York City Marathon. We also may have raised a glass of whiskey to her recent race win in San Antonio, Texas. We had so much fun talking with her — I know you guys are going to love hearing from her as much as we did. Des is witty, smart, real. (Fun fact: When Des finished second at the 2011 Boston Marathon by just two seconds and set a personal record by four minutes, her time of 2:22:38 was then the fastest time ever run by an American woman in the Boston Marathon. After her success in Boston she was invited to throw the first pitch at a Detroit Tigers game.)
Following our conversation with Des, Pam and I offer a re-cap of the experience talking with a two-time Olympic marathoner — Des says she’s up for a return visit to the podcast, maybe after her Boston 2018 race! — and we also share information about the upcoming winter and spring Michigan Runner Girl weekend retreats.
The Michigan Runner Girl Show is made possible in part by the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa.
A special thanks to Mike Moran, Mike Youker and Jonny Tornga of Quarter After Productions in Traverse City, Mich. for producing the show. Check out this studio’s work here.