Welcome to “On the Run,” a Strategist column in which we ask discerning runners to tell us everything they wore and brought on their most recent run, from shoes and socks to headphones and energy gels. Running-gear preferences are very personal and change depending on the season, so instead of declaring one pair of shorts or one sports bra the categorical best, we hope this series captures what works best for one particular runner on one particular run — and that maybe you can find something in it that works for you, too.
For this edition of “On the Run,” I spoke with Desiree Linden, a highly decorated professional long-distance runner who, in 2018, became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years — a first-place finish she ground out during a notoriously rainy and cold race. Linden, who’s 39 and goes by Des, now trains in Charlevoix, Michigan, but was born in San Diego, where she ran track and cross-country in high school. She went on to become a two-time All-American at Arizona State University, then placed second in the U.S. Olympic-trials marathon in 2016 and seventh at the Olympic Games marathon that same year. Recently, she placed fifth — and was the top American woman — at the 2023 New York City half marathon. Linden’s forthcoming memoir, Choosing to Run, about her 2018 Boston win and what gets her motivated to achieve her running goals, comes out April 4, around the same time she’ll be gunning for another win at the Boston Marathon, which will be held on April 17. “That was such a critical day for having the right equipment,” Linden says of her 2018 race. “A lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff went into picking things out that day.” Here, she tells us everything she wore for a solo workout during a recent wet, cold morning in Phoenix, where she ran eight four-minute intervals at her 5k pace on a local road.
As a Brooks-sponsored athlete, Linden wore a few items from the brand, including the Hyperion Tempo, a responsive shoe with a firmer ride meant for hard, fast workouts (it’s one of the pairs we recommended in our roundup of the best running shoes.) “It’s actually one of my favorite shoes, particularly for the shorter, faster stuff. It’s nice to feel the ground a little bit more,” she says. The Hyperion Tempo doesn’t have a carbon plate (a common feature of race-specific shoes), but Linden still calls them “quick and snappy.”
The Phoenix weather during Linden’s session was close to her ideal running conditions, “somewhere in the high forties and low fifties, but still sunny.” However, it was a little wet, so she used this waterproof jacket “for the first few miles to just kinda shake off the cold and stay dry,” she says. Linden didn’t carry it on the run (her warm-up circuit starts and finishes at the same point), so she stripped it and stored it, but she likes how it‘s portable. “It folds into a little pack, so if you were going to carry it, you could.”
To keep track of her workouts, Linden uses the Apex Pro 2 watch, which she describes as “insanely light” (the Apex is also our top fitness-tracker recommendation for runners). The Apex was a necessity for this session in particular, since it was just Linden on the road — no other runners, no coach, no support team — and she needed to time her four-minute intervals. “Particularly with this type of workout, which is by time, and then you can get the data afterward,” Linden says. “I really just need to check for that four-minute mark and then get the data later.”
To view all of her data after her session, Linden uses Trackster, an app that pairs with her watch and phone to create a digital notebook of her running progress. With it, you can keep track of the mileage on your shoes and your equipment, and you can log sessions and splits. Linden likes the smaller community feel of the app, compared to larger networks like Strava. “There’s not a massive audience looking into it, and the developer is someone I know well, so I like that I can pitch him ideas. It’s been fun to partner with them and try to make it a little bit more tailored to the user.”
When it comes to endurance fuel, Linden sipped on PowerBar’s electrolyte mix in between reps. “PowerBar’s gels are good too,” she says, “but the mix has been the go-to for me for a number of years.”
Sunscreen is a crucial part of Linden‘s kit, especially after spending lots of time training in the southwest. “Having run at Arizona State for college, it’s something you learned right away,” she says. “Like, Oh, this is necessary to just keep on top of every day.” Linden likes how Zealios sunscreen is “ not really greasy,” she says. “It’s comfortable for me. And I like how it’s reef friendly, which is not a big deal in Arizona, but I like that the company is interested in that angle.” While traveling and trying to ward off chapped lips, Linden also uses Zealios’s chapstick.
Along with sunblock, Linden wears polarized sunglasses. She opts for these Oakley shades, which she likes for the sport fit (they don’t jostle around when she moves), but also because they’re colorful. “I try to look for something that’s fun and different, but that doesn’t clash with whatever my uniform is that year,” she says. “Right now it’s white and blue, so everything’s pretty safe.”
Linden is very particular about her socks, and was excited to explain her decision-making process behind wearing this pair for this session. When running faster paces in a workout shoe like the Tempo, Linden explains, these socks are the right weight, meaning there’s padding in the right spots (around her forefoot, toes, and heel). They’re tight enough to support Linden’s arch, yet there’s ample cushioning that lends softness upon impact. “They’re really balanced well,” she says. Linden has developed some callouses on the spots she’s really tough on after years of training, but she doesn’t get gnarly blisters, which she credits to her shoe-sock pairing. “The Tempo and the High Point are both really dialed in for me,” she says.
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