Des Linden’s Journey to the 50k World Record

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, few of us were motivated, including 2018 Boston Marathon champion Desiree “Des” Linden. With the cancelation of the 2020 Boston Marathon, Linden decided to set her sights on something new: the 50k world record. The previous women’s record of  3:07:20 was set by Aly Dixon (U.K.) in 2019 at the 50k World Championships in Brasov, Romania. While this is quite a bit slower than the pace that was require to run the women’s marathon world record of 2:14:04 by Brigid Kosegei (Kenya), anyone who has run a marathon can tell you that a single step beyond the event’s 26.2 miles seems impossible after that distance – and a 50k is almost exactly five miles more.

In October 2020, Linden and her team at Brooks Running decided to try out a new training plan to gauge how durable her body was: Destober. She increased from running one mile on October 1 to 31 miles on October 31, a total of 496 miles that month. She found that she was very durable, and the team built her 50k training plan from there.

On April 13, 2021, in the Brooks Running 50k and Marathon, held on a loop course in Oregon, Linden ran into history. Paced by a friend and fellow 50k entrant Charlie Lawrence, Linden clocked her half marathon at 1:15:47, and marathon at 2:31:31 – a stout time on its own for an out-and-back course and a small field, and leaving her with 36 minutes to break the previous record. Linden threw the hammer down. She had her eyes on breaking three hours, and she did, sprinting across the finish line for a new women’s 50k world record of 2:59:54. To put it into perspective, her pace per mile was only 20 seconds per mile slower than her best marathon time set over 10 years ago, in a race five miles longer.

iRunFar previously reported on Linden’s world record, but we wanted to share this new video — filmed by Billy Yang — of her first step into the ultrarunning world. Will we see Linden on the trails next?!

Alex Potter

is an Editor at iRunFar. Following a nearly decade-long hiatus from running after college, she has found a new love in trail running. As a photojournalist, Alex has reported throughout the Middle East and East Africa for publications like 'National Geographic,' 'The New York Times,' and 'The Washington Post.' She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her partner Pete and her two cats.