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Watching Desi Linden win the Boston Marathon yesterday was amazing. When she broke the tape, she became the first American woman in my lifetime to win the Boston Marathon. And Desi deserved it. She’s a fighter. She’s a workhorse. And she’s always said her thing isn’t about a gimmick or flash. It’s about putting her head down and doing the work. She’s never been in it for the glory, the credit, the accolades. I love everything about Desi (if you haven’t yet, make sure you go listen to her episode of the Ali on the Run Show from a few weeks ago!), and was on the edge of my seat for the entire race.
Of course, the moment so many people are talking about in the immediate aftermath of the race is that porta-potty stop. A little over an hour into the race, Shalane Flanagan needed a bathroom break. (Elites, they’re just like us!) The women’s lead pack was still together at that point, but Desi did something remarkable: She held back while Shalane did her business (in a mere 13 seconds — that is impressive), and then they worked together to get back in the pack.
In post-race press conferences, Desi said she had actually been thinking about dropping out earlier in the race. So she told Shalane she had her back, and that she’d do whatever she could to help her. Then, after she got Shalane back into the pack, she decided to chase down then-leader Mamitu Daska’s gap in an effort to get a W for Molly Huddle. That is some insane sportsmanship. And of course, Desi didn’t drop out — she went on to win the entire race. It was amazing to watch.
By the end of the race, this Tweet from November had gone viral all over again.
Shalane and Desi are competitors. When they race, they race. They each want to win — which means beating the other. They aren’t on the same team — Desi races for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, and Shalane is perhaps the backbone of the female contingent of the Bowerman Track Club. But their support and sportsmanship show that working together makes everyone better. You can be competitive and still lift each other up. Desi and Shalane are the best at what they do, and in turn they make each other better.
Since I’m feeling super warm, fuzzy, and unfocused, I thought, “I need to make a list of all the amazing women who inspire me.” Because I, too, want to lift women up. I’ve always been someone who feels my best when I get to help other people. Nothing gives me more pride than when a writer reaches out asking for help, advice, or someone’s contact info, and then, a few weeks later, I see their byline exactly where they wanted it.
But I’m going to be honest — and I’m sure so many of you can relate — women can be vicious. There have been so many instances over the past year in particular where I’ve had to take a step back and realize, “Holy shit, Mean Girls wasn’t about high school, it was about adulthood, and girl-on-girl crime exists in sneaky and obvious ways all the freaking time.” I’ve had a few seriously sour occurrences with women over the past year or so, and they really bum me out. (I am, admittedly, way too trusting, way too honest with people, and way too forgiving. These are lifelong faults I’m aware of and have found challenging to change. Work in progress, as always.) Those situations hurt. Realizing a woman you thought had your back but is really talking all kinds of shit behind it? That sucks. Finding out someone you considered a friend isn’t as psyched, supportive, or sincere as you thought? Big letdown. It happens. It’s a bummer. And hey, I’m not a perfect female, either. But it makes me want to focus so much harder on the good, the great, and the wonderful.
When we work together, we all get better. When we push each other, we all rise. When we build each other up, we run the world. (Speaking of Mean Girls, I feel like this girl right now…)
So, in the spirit of girl power, here are some women I support, adore, and love to see succeed. Check them out, pay it forward, and support women supporting awesome women!
Katie Burke: Katie is this week’s guest on the Ali on the Run Show! Our conversation was a major game-changer for me. Katie is a total boss, and while that’s true, in terms of her job, it’s also how she lives her life. Katie was the first female in the C-suite at Hubspot, a tech company in Boston, and she’s all about leading and empowering women in the workplace. But that’s not a buzzy catchphrase — she’s actually living it. We talk all about it on this week’s episode (which, apologies in advance, I recorded on the wrong settings on my computer, so the audio is not quite up to my standards, ughhhh), and I can’t wait to share it. I learned so much from Katie. You will, too.
Veronica Jackson & the Central Park Track Club Girls: My friend Veronica is on a quest to run an Olympic Trials Qualifying time. She wanted to run a 2:44 at Boston yesterday, and fell a few minutes short of her goal. She ran a 2:49, which is obviously an incredible time — and she was the 13th overall female finisher, even beating out Molly Huddle! (I love you, Molly. No disrespect! You’re amazing.) Veronica trains so hard, she has a demanding job, and she is fueled by passion and commitment. I am in constant awe of her, and I can’t wait for her to run that OTQ.
Veronica is also part of the Central Park Track Club, and the women she trains with are all amazing. I used to see them running together every morning in Central Park. They’re so fast and they work so hard, and they are, in my mind, the ultimate girl group. They are so supportive of one another, they push each other to be harder, better, faster, stronger, and they so clearly have each others’ backs. They are like the non-pro version of the “Bowerman Babes.” So to Veronica, Alex, Lindsay, Dani, Grace, Meredith, Jacy — thank you all for inspiring me on the run and beyond. I’ll never be fast enough to run with any of you, but you’re the team I want to be on [in my speedy dreams].
Erin Strout: It’s so important for me to have strong female writers to look up to right now, and Erin is definitely one of them. She writes for Runner’s World and Outside, and not only is she brilliant and talented, she’s also kind and genuine. Erin has helped me out so many times, and I’m always in awe of the great work she does. I read every interview she does because they push me to ask better, harder, more insightful questions. (Thanks, Erin!) Read this piece she wrote last week.
Mary Wittenberg: I consider Mary to be the queen of the running industry. She did so much for women’s running during her time as the CEO of New York Road Runners. (She’s the one who convinced everyone to let the elite women start the New York City Marathon in 2002 — a trend that caught on at most big races.) I’ll never forget Mary’s press conference when she and city officials finally decided to cancel the 2012 New York City Marathon in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. As a runner and New York City resident, I was devastated for many reasons, but I fully supported her decision. And I remember having so much empathy for Mary. I remember wondering if she got any sleep that week. I’m fortunate to know Mary and cannot wait to have her on the Ali on the Run Show.
Deena Kastor: I had the privilege of running with Deena last week — just a few days before she shipped up to Boston — and in the two hours we spent together, she blew my mind at least 300 times. She’s so smart and wise, and I can’t wait to tear into her new book. There’s a reason everyone in the running world loves Deena. She’s the real deal.
Jessica Snider-Rodriguez: My friend Jess is so cool. She ran a 3:08 in Boston yesterday. No big deal. A huge deal. She works her butt off on the run, but she’s also just one of those people who is super chill and never says anything bad about anyone else. I’ve never heard her gossip or badmouth anyone, and she’s always smiling. She loves traveling, so she travels! She loves finding cool new restaurants, so she does that, too! She doesn’t sit around wishing her life would change — she goes out and does she cool shit she wants to do.
Reese Witherspoon: Yeah she’s gorgeous and famous and rich and stuff. But when I think about women empowering other women, I think about Reese’s face throughout the entire 2017/2018 awards show season. Every time one of her Big Little Lies costars was honored, Reese was visibly overflowing with pride. (Can you visibly overflow with pride? I’m sure all my editors would cut that sentence.) I really enjoyed Big Little Lies, but I especially loved knowing that these women were all friends offscreen, too, and that they support one another so deeply. I am really craving that in my life right now. (Apply within.)
Eva Chen: Kickass career. Really funny. Keeps it real as hell. Is a badass at home and on the job. Pretty much everything she posts makes me LOL (“Ren, please eat your lunch today” on Insta Stories every single day — her kids are hilarious), and I love that she’s all about building her team up and supporting them. Bonus: They do weekly workouts together and she shares them on Insta Stories and they’re so funny. I want to work with her in some way some day. (Or just have her on the podcast. She’s on the list!)
Rachel Brathen: She’s best known as “Yoga Girl” on the internet, and I love that she’s unapologetically herself, that she stands her ground against her haters (with 2.1 million followers, of course she has loads of people eager to disagree with her), and she spends her days doing what she loves and what fulfills her. She runs a yoga studio, she hosts a podcast, and she helps run a dog rescue! She’s also a fun, loving, happy mom — basically the opposite of the stressed-out, nervous mom I always imagined I would be someday. (But Rachel, pleeeeeeeeeease do me a favor and stop Insta Storying while driving!)
Big, huge, love-fest-y shout-out to all the amazing women in my life — the ones in my family, the ones I’ve been friends with since we made ridiculous dance videos in my basement, the ones I met later in life, the ones running brought into my life, and the ones I know purely through the internet and adore just as much. Keep pushing me. I like it.
Last thought: I want to do more with all these good vibes. Something about community. Real life and beyond. I’m going to think on this. Stand by!
WHO INSPIRES YOU? I’m dying for more leading lady inspiration in my life, so please please please drop some love for your favorite females in the comments!
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