In Her Own Words: Marathoner Desiree Davila

Getting to know pro runners

When Desiree Davila concluded a solid but not spectacular track career at Arizona State University in 2005, she wanted to see if she could get more out of herself as an athlete. She fit the mold of a recruit for the Rochester Hills, MI-based Hansons-Brooks Distance Project in every way but one: her warm-weather roots.

“She’s not somebody we would have ever contacted,” said [coach] Kevin Hanson in a pre-Boston Marathon interview in 2011. “She’s from San Diego. Those are people who think that 40 degrees is cold. I asked her, ‘Do you know what it’s like in the winter?’ But she’s adapted really well.”

Obviously. A few weeks after that conversation, Davila came within two seconds of becoming the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon since 1985. Her time, 2:22:38, was the fastest ever run by an American woman in Boston, and made her the #3 American all-time. Davila, 28, went on to make her first U.S. Olympic Marathon team in January, and the NYRR New York Mini 10K on June 9 will be her last race before London. She shared with us five things we should know about her:

1. "Growing up, I always wanted to be a pilot. Who watched Top Gun and didn't want to be a pilot for at least 30 seconds? I very seriously considered attending the United States Air Force Academy and went through much of the application process. Ultimately, I recognized that the lifestyle of a cadet would make it difficult to maximize my running ability, and I wasn't ready to put that aside. Plus, I have pretty poor eyesight, so by that point I knew I wouldn't be flying."

2. "The most important thing I learned in college was to be myself. A lot of people were struggling to fit in, almost like trying to figure out who they were, rather than just being [themselves] and finding friends who would work with that. I’m really dry and sarcastic, and sometimes that rubs people the wrong way; people think it’s mean. So you either get me or you don’t. The people I meet who turn into friends can laugh at themselves and poke fun back."

3. "I started as a psychology major with an interest in sports psychology, and began taking religious studies courses strictly to improve my writing skills, because the courses required a lot of it. I had amazing professors in the department and I became more interested in the field. I had a heavy emphasis on Islamic Studies and debated finishing up a certificate in the area but opted to join the Hansons' team instead. I was even considering graduate programs in the criminal justice field. In other words, I have no idea what I would have done had I not continued running, and I would have probably spent a long time in school figuring it out."

4. "Ryan [Linde, professional runner and her fiancé] and I spend quite a bit of time up north in the summer, in Bay Harbor, Michigan. It’s remote enough that we can ignore phone calls, e-mails and texts, and blame it on bad reception. We’re going to be married up there. It's definitely our sacred space, where we can go and relax and really be ourselves, and we’re excited to share it with our friends and family."

5. "I follow the sport because I’m a fan of the sport, but I’m not obsessed with it. I know what other people are doing. They’re knocking off half-marathons [in preparation for the Olympics], and I feel like I’m behind. I always kind of feel like we’re behind. But I buy into our system, because it’s worked before."

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