Michigan’s Des Linden may have beat the other 29,977 runners thanks to the energizing quality of linden and true coffee.
By Julie Yolles
Photography by Allison Farrand
On the morning of becoming the first American woman to win the Boston Maraton in 33 years, Desiree Linden had her pre-race ritual breakfast: a bagel with peanut butter, white rice and black coffee. While the 29,978 runners registered for the 122nd Annual Patriot’s Day event may very well have had a similar regimen, Linden can emphatically confirm she was the only one in the world to enjoy that special cup of fresh-brewed Peru single-origin coffee that day, certainly fit for the breakfast of this champion.
Of course, it helps to own your own specialty coffee company and, even better, have your co-owner husband personally roast it at home in Charlevoix, Michigan, bring it to Boston and serve it to you hot and fresh in your hotel room.
“Having Ryan make me the coffee was necessary that day because, well, I’m needy,” Linden jokes.
Known as Des to her family and friends, Linden is anything but needy or one with too much time on her hands. And while the idea to start a premium coffee roasting company with fellow self-professed coffee-nerd elite runners, Ben and Sarah True, percolated a while, linden & true coffee officially launched at a pop-up store in Boston during the marathon weekend in April.
“It just blew up,” says Ryan, 36, a pro triathlete who grew up in Rochester Hills and graduated from Michigan State University. “We sold out in 45 minutes after Des won the race.” The fearless four marketed it as the Champion’s Roast and sold the limited run for $35 per bag of premium whole beans, each autographed by Des. Roasted in small batches and made fresh to order, most linden & true coffee sells for around $18 per 12 oz. bag at coffeebylt.com.
“I’m a habitual coffee user — not for any performance enhancement; it’s just because I really love coffee. It’s mentally boosting. There’s an interesting science with sports and caffeine, which helps me justify it,” Des says.
About a month after winning the Boston Marathon, Des ended her 13-year relationship with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project Team for which she first moved to Michigan to train with and where she met Ryan. The team was created by Metro Detroit’s Hanson’s Running Shops, along with the Brooks Running Company, to allow top runners, post-college, to relocate to Michigan to train, live and compete together.
“It was hard to be a part of the team in Rochester Hills because we’re starting to live in Charlevoix full time,” Des says in a call from Charlevoix. She’s now training with fellow Charlevoix resident Walt Drenth, Michigan State University director of cross country and track and field, who was Des’ coach when she was a senior at Arizona State University.
“We really love it up here in Charlevoix. I train a lot on my own. Ryan also jumps in and trains with me — there are a lot of active people here to run with,” says Des, who turned 35 in July.
“We feel it’s very important to give back to our community. We’re proud to call Michigan our home,” Ryan adds. “We’re involved with the Traverse City Track Club and Norte, a nonprofit that empowers young girls in Traverse City and promotes a healthy lifestyle.”
For now, linden & true coffee has dual roasting facilities: Ryan does roasting in Charlevoix, and Ben True does roasting in New Hampshire where he and Sarah live and train. In September, they introduced Roaster Ryan’s three-month coffee subscription. This month, they’re unveiling custom, double-insulated coffee mugs. And a decaf line is in the works.
As for Des, the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are on her radar. She’s also ramping up her training to 130 miles per week as she preps to go up against her friendly rival, American Shalane Flanagan, at the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4. Flanagan was last year’s New York City Marathon winner and considered the favorite to win Boston this year.
But as any runner would tell you that day, especially Linden, the running conditions were brutal, with temperatures in the 30s, rain, fog and wind gusts of 25 mph.
“While training in the tough Michigan winters definitely helped me, even knowing how to dress for the day of the marathon, the conditions were really bad and, around mile 5 or 6, I thought, ‘this is going to be a death march to the finish line,’ ” Des recalls. “I was feeling horrible and was thinking about dropping out and cutting my losses or I could step up and help Shalane.”
So when Flanagan stopped for the widely reported 13-second port-a-potty break, Linden stayed back at mile 12 and waited for Flanagan.
“Helping Shalane ended up helping me turn it around. It’s unique in that running is such an individual sport, but it was very exciting that such a great group of American women with the expectations and belief that we could get it done came together as a group,” Linden says about her fellow U.S. runners who, in addition to Linden’s first-place win, took second, fourth and fifth places. Flanagan finished sixth among the American women and seventh overall.
As to what single-origin linden & true coffee Ryan’s planning to serve to his wife on New York City Marathon morning in November, you’ll just have to check it out on Twitter at @CoffeeByLT, or stop by their pop-up shop.