Des Linden – Marathoner Attempting 50K World Record in April


In October, we watched as Des Linden hit her highest mileage ever during her “Destober” challenge—running daily miles that corresponded with the calendar date. In total she ran 496 miles, including 196 the final week.

Now, the 2018 Boston Marathon champion is formally entering the ultramarathon world by attempting to capture the 50K world record—31.1 miles—of 3:07:20, which Great Britain’s Aly Dixon set in 2019.

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“During the pandemic, I think the biggest thing I figured out was just to find ways to make running fun and interesting and fresh and new” Linden told Runner’s World. “Destober was a lot of fun. It was just about going out and loving the run, and also connecting with people. But I feel like I learned a lot about myself, and the ultra world is always something Ryan [Linden, Des’s husband] and I have kicked around.”

Because of the pandemic, few details are being shared about her race. The event will take place in mid-April at an undisclosed location in Oregon. The course, which is world record-eligible, will be roughly 6.5 miles out and back with fueling stations along the way. Linden will be joined by a few pacers and some people racing a marathon.

des linden jaybird

Matt Trappe

The goal for the Destober challenge was to run slow miles to see how her body held up to the volume. She and Ryan put in 70-mile weeks leading into that challenge, and as the month-long challenge progressed, she felt her engine handling the miles well, even if the chassis was a little tired by the end of it.

Her new goal adds speed to the increased mileage. With a more regimented training plan from her coach, Walt Drenth, Linden is doing longer runs than she’s used to in training and has focused on running back-to-back long runs for more time on her feet.

Recently, she did a training run of 24 miles—her longest so far this training cycle, and longer than she typically runs in marathon training cycles—which included a 10-mile warmup with a 3 x 4-mile workout. She went out a little too fast early and paid for it when cramps set in over the final two or three miles. On days that she’s not running long, she’ll go for her usual 12 miles in the morning and four in the afternoon, which adds up to 110- to 115-mile weeks. (You can also follow her training in the month leading up to the event on Jaybird’s Instagram account.)

Pacing has also been an adjustment. She’s been training for a 5:45 per mile, though she admits that’s dipped down to 5:35 at times, which she said was a bit aggressive. On race day, she plans to run around 5:55 out of the gate and see where it takes her. To break the record, she needs to be around a 6:00. (Linden’s marathon PR is 2:22:38—a 5:26 per mile pace—which she ran at the 2011 Boston Marathon.)

“I feel like I’m super fit, and like I just want to crush this record because I think it’s so attainable, but also, you have to absolutely respect the distance,” Linden said. “It’s like when you do your first marathon. You have no idea what it’s going to feel like after 20 miles. It’s managing what I think is the right pace and also respecting what’s been done in the past and finding the sweet spot.”

Additionally, Linden has adjusted her fueling. When running a marathon, her plan usually involves drinking a PowerBar electrolyte drink early and often before switching to PowerBar Hydro gels, specifically the mojito flavor, later in the race. She also admits she starts skimping on fuel often around the 30K mark of a marathon. With five extra miles in the 50K, she’s working on continuing to fuel later in the race.

“I think I’m just more diligent about fueling, like practicing it on these long runs and really training the gut,” she said.

With the longer days out running, Linden has turned to her Jaybird Vistas for company. Linden mixes up her music selection, spending entire sessions listening to anything from hip hop to 80s music to Hall and Oates. However, to her surprise, she learned at the end of 2020 that all there’s left to do is run.

“I’ll tell you the most embarrassing thing about me,” Linden said. “I have very strong credibility with my music choices and my tastes, but last year, my Spotify updated me that I was in the 0.5 top percent of Taylor Swift listeners. I was like, ‘How did this happen?’”

With just over a month to go until her race, Linden feels strong and healthy. She has a 26-mile long run coming up, which she feels will be the finishing touch on her training.

“I think this [race] will be really telling,” she said. “And then eventually I might think about being on trails, but I don’t know if my ankles and lower legs will put up with that. What Magdalena Boulet has done has just been super inspiring to me—she transitioned out of the roads to the trails. … I’m just always trying to find races that excite me.”

Beyond this record attempt, after her hopeful postrace drink of champagne from the not-yet-released version of the Brooks Hyperion Elite, Linden still has the Olympics to think about, since she’s the first alternate for the marathon. She’s also planning for a fall marathon, which has not been announced yet.

For now though, she’s looking forward to this new challenge.

“I think 50K is going to be the new marathon,” Linden said. “It’s kind of the challenge I’m looking to run myself into—how do I respond when things get really difficult? When things start to break down? So going longer seems like the natural challenge for me. This is the new marathon for me.”

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