An American woman hasn't won the Boston Marathon since 1985. But there's a confidence within this year's elite runners that the 32-year drought will come to an end on April 16.
"I can't wait to match up against this American crew. I think it's going to be so fun. It's the best group of Americans ever," 2011 Boston Marathon runner-up Des Linden told WBZ-TV.
"We can run with the Kenyans. We can run with the Ethiopians. I think that there's a lot of heart now in the women who are running Boston," said Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run Boston with a numbered bib.
The 2018 elite American women's team assembled by John Hancock reads like a list of who's who of American distance runners. There are savvy race veterans like Linden and local girl Shalane Flanagan, and there are up-and-comers in Molly Huddle and Jordan Hasay. The group includes U.S. champions, Olympians and record holders.
And one of those elite runners has a pretty big win less than a year ago, thanks to Flanagan's 2017 victory at the New York City Marathon.
"It raises the bar for everyone," Linden said of Flanagan's New York City triumph. "It makes it more attainable. It's really hard, but it's doable."
"I think it allows Americans specifically, the ability to dream a little bigger now," Flanagan said of her win.
For the Marblehead native, that dream has always been to win her hometown race. She's placed in the Top 10 in each of her three previous Boston Marathons, and her 2:22:02 finish in 2014 set the record for the fastest time ever by an American woman on the Boston course.
Her victory in New York renewed her confidence, but she admits that there were thoughts of retirement following that win. The 36-year-old would not rule out that this year's Boston Marathon could be the final race of her career.
"There definitely is a presence in my mind of starting a family. That's very important to me," explained Flanagan. "I don't know if Boston will be my last or not, but I'm going to go in with the intention that it could be."
While this will be Flanagan's fourth time running the Boston Marathon, it will be the first for Molly Huddle. Raised in upstate New York, Huddle lives and trains in Providence and has long wanted to run this race. A three-time winner of the New York City half marathon, she would like to experience that kind of success at the next level.
"It's a great feeling; you get addicted to it for sure," said the 33-year-old Huddle. "I can't imagine what it's like to do it in a major marathon."
Meanwhile, Linden will be back for her sixth shot at Boston. Raised in California, she trains in Michigan, but says Boston feels like home. "I love this race, I love this course," she said with a smile. "The people here are amazing. … I feel like a hometown."
It may feel like home, but on April 16, Boston will morph into the running world's biggest stage once again. Everyone lacing up their running shoes knows just how much it would mean for an American woman to cross the finish line first.
"I think it's going to be our year," said Linden. "I don't know who it will be, but the bodies are there to have the breakthrough."
"I think there's a strong chance that we have two Americans battling it out for the win," said Flanagan. "Which would be mind blowing for people."
"It's going to create a great deal of local excitement, and I think, global excitement," added Switzer.
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