These were two of her favorite drinks when she became the first woman to walk 50 kilometers in less than three hours on April 13th. Her time of 2:59:54 on a course near Eugene, Oregon beat the previous record by nearly seven and a half minutes.
“I got a ton of bourbon and whiskey and we had this really nice one that was about 66 months old or so – it was beautiful.”
The celebrations were well deserved. A seasoned marathon runner who had never driven 26.2 miles before, Linden drove an average pace of five minutes and 47 seconds per mile over 31 miles to drop below the three-hour mark and set Alyson Dixon’s record Bring Britain.
Race beyond the marathon
37-year-old Linden decided to set the 50 km record to fill a hole in her racing calendar that would normally have been occupied by a spring marathon.
Last October, she completed a unique feat called “Destober” in which she covered a distance corresponding to each day of the month: one mile on the first day, two on the second, before finally ending with a 31 mile run on October 31.
This turned out to be a catalyst for trying to try the 50km in April. This setup required running between 110 and 115 miles each week, with strenuous speed sessions incorporated into their long runs of 20, 22, 24 and 26 miles.
The training was intended to prepare Linden for races outside the distance of a marathon.
“I’ve done 25, 26 miles and you feel the marathon fatigue where your feet are sticking to the ground, your energy is low and you still have a long way to go,” she says, reflecting on the last month after the event .
“What was particularly challenging on this course is that we passed that 26.2 mile mark and then you move away from the start / finish line.
“You get further away from home to a certain extent, even though you are actually getting closer. That was a big mental challenge.”
Since no fans lined the track and only a pacemaker for society, it turned out to be a new racing experience for Linden. Sticking to the target pace on the way there and back, which meandered along an abandoned bike path near Lake Dorena, required a focused mindset.
“It was these long stretches of absolutely beautiful landscapes,” says Linden.
“There are horses on the side of the road galloping at the same pace as us and it’s beautiful, but you could easily fall asleep … because there was no real energy.
“Physically I just felt super locked up and very well prepared … the biggest challenge was the last five or six miles where it looked like, ‘I’ve never been here and had to keep my head to make sure I get the record and the sub-three. ‘”
“Shooting big” in Boston
With the distance of 50 km, which is not recognized by World Athletics, Linden’s time does not count as an official world record – instead, the sports association describes it as the “best in the world”.
But everything means the same to them.
“It’s just words, right?” says Linden. “If you make it easy for the public, nobody in the world has done it before, and it’s still special.
“If we can make the event more popular and more people start, maybe World Athletics will rethink their position on it.”
After competing in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, Linden narrowly missed a spot on the U.S. marathon team for Tokyo and finished fourth in last year’s trials in Atlanta, where the top three qualified.
“Winning Boston is always the goal when I sign up and it will be interesting to see how the fields come together and what it feels like in the fall,” she says, during the race from its usual April date amid the pandemic is moved.
“I’m really excited to be able to train at home in Charlevoix, Michigan because I think this area is just the perfect place to prepare for a Boston-type class. I’m definitely shooting for a big one in October.”
And when it comes to ultra running – defined as any race that goes beyond a marathon – the 50 km record might just have been the start for Linden.
“It’s fascinating to step into this unknown and say, ‘I’ve never been here,'” she says.
“It was all so strange and fresh and new and I think it got me excited about the longer and longer distances … it’s about challenging myself and testing these strangers.
“There’s obviously a lot of space left to get there. I think I could see myself go a little longer and flirt with this stuff for a while.”