Column: US woman wins Boston Marathon for the first time in 33 years

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, left, places the victor’s crown on Desiree Linden, of Washington, Mich., after she won the women’s division of the 122nd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 16, 2018, in Boston. She is the first American woman to win the race since 1985. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

It was a dreary Patriot’s Day in Boston on Monday as runners gathered from around the world to compete in the 122nd Boston Marathon. Sunday marked the fifth anniversary of the horrific bombing that has permanently shaken the city. Two weeks after the tragic day, a Boston triathlon team organized the first ever #BostonRun. The course, which is estimated around 7.5 km, spells out the city’s name. The first #BostonRun saw about 15 participants. On Sunday, more than 150 showed up to run.

Tragedy aside, Boston is one of the most prestigious marathons in the world. Unlike most marathons in the United States, Boston has a qualification time, ensuring that only the best of the best are eligible to participate. As a result, it has drawn global attention and features elite Olympic-level runners every year.

This year’s winner was Desiree Linden. You may recognize the name. This 34-year-old is a two-time US Olympian, running the marathon in London and Rio de Janeiro.  She was the first American to cross the Boston finish line as the victor in 33 years.

Shalane Flanagan, a Boston native, has made Boston her goal since the bombings. She has had emotional finishes in each race since. Having recently been the first US woman to win the New York City Marathon in over 30 years, Flanagan was less emotional this year with her seventh place finish.

The real surprise in this year’s race was 26-year-old Sarah Sellers. She finished in second place. Oh, and she’s not an elite runner. She’s a nurse in Arizona. She trained before and after 10-hour shifts. She qualified for Boston in September with a time that landed her in the elite runners group. She showed up and defeated former Olympians. She came out of nowhere to finish second in one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world.

Sellers never ran more than 100 miles a week compared to the 130-140 miles that elite runners average. She trains in Arizona and managed to destroy her field in the wintry, harsh conditions that played out in Boston on Monday. She flew in last Tuesday with her husband, and spent time biking in Acadia National Park, days before she ran 26.2 miles.

The Olympic Trials for USATF almost always occur in a Southern state. If Sellers was able to perform so well in a climate she is not accustomed to, we’re looking at the emergence of a potential Olympian. An Olympian who had not run competitively since injuring herself in college.

What’s really special about the race this year is that, in the women’s category, a woman from the US (and a third place finish by a woman from Canada) claimed the top eight slots. A Kenyan runner finished ninth, and a Japanese runner finished tenth.

To conclude, as if your heart wasn’t already warmed enough, I want to talk about the inspiration that is Katherine Switzer. Anyone versed in the sport knows her name. She was the first woman ever to run Boston in 1967, doing so against the bylaws of the race. She registered as “K. Switzer,” and showed up as a 20-year-old student at Syracuse, to race hundreds of men.

The race organizer, upon seeing her running in his race, chased her and attempted to grab her number off of her shirt. Her boyfriend body-checked the race organizer, and Switzer finished the race.

This year, Switzer ran Boston again, completing the race while wearing the same bib number she wore fifty years ago: 261.

It was an incredible day for female runners and they are only getting better.


Rachel Schaefer is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rachel.schaefer@uconn.edu.

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