Turning Bad Weather Into a Strategy: Lessons From the Boston Marathon

If you follow any news source, athletic or outdoor social media account, or live on the east coast, you’ve probably heard by now that Desi Linden took a historic win at the Boston Marathon on Monday. In what is considered standard weather for the Pacific Northwest, Desi played off the less-than-ideal racing conditions for Boston. For snowshoe racers who already know resilience, races like this can test an athlete’s toughness, patience, and strategy.

Below, the wise owls at Runner’s World have put together how you can conquer your race in challenging conditions. Study up now while those spring showers are in full striking mode!

Desi Linden’s typical marathon M.O. is based in patience, resilience, maturity, and good decision-making. Those traits were never more in evidence—and never more important—than during her historic Boston win today. Here are five keys to how she prevailed in miserable weather.

Lurk

Don’t get on camera until it matters. For 10 miles Linden was invisible, usually hidden behind the larger figure of Maki Ashi of Japan. When it’s a headwind, let others—the more of them the better—do the work. (Men’s winner Yuki Kawauchi did otherwise, but no rules can fit the race he ran.)

Miss the Puddles

“Every step matters,” Meb Keflezighi said after he won Boston in 2014. Splashing through an inch of water close to the curb adds hugely to the drag. Where the pack permits, cut the tangents. When the crunch came in the hills, early leader Mamitu Daska added maybe 100 meters to her route by staying outside the curves while Linden cut the gap across the shortest line every time.

In a Headwind, Don’t Go With the Early Surges

“Desi is a really smart tactician,” her coach Kevin Hanson said this week. Smart tactics sometimes means not reacting. When Daska tested the field in the early and middle miles, Linden declined to be tested. She had her own run of show for these conditions, and she stuck to it.

If You Have to Stop, Don’t Rush to Close the Gap

Shalane Flanagan took a quick porta-potty stop at 12 miles. That wasn’t fatal, at a pace well within her capability. But Flanagan dug aggressively into the wind, closing the gap within a mile. Five miles later that surge looked to make itself felt in her legs.

Yes, Relish the Weather

“These are my favorite conditions,” Kawauchi said, and Linden had no complaints. She lives in Michigan. No Kenyan or Ethiopian was happy. Wind and rain restructure the race. A basic rule is to never lead for much faster runners; only lead from them. Linden allowed no one to shelter behind her. Once she seized her moment, she was gone. No benevolence. You don’t win on a horrible day by being kind to the others.