2018 Boston Marathon winner Des Linden says this key to success is 'something that's often neglected'

2018 Boston Marathon women's winner Desiree Linden celebrates after she crosses the finish line
Boston Globe | Boston Globe | Getty Images

Last April, Desiree Linden became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years — and she triumphed in icy rain and 25-mile-per-hour headwinds.

Race conditions were so harsh that a handful of elite runners dropped out. At one point, even Linden thought about stopping.

Crossing the line more than four minutes ahead of the rest of the field took "grit and persistence," the two-time Olympian told CNBC Make It at a NYC event hosted by Marathon Brewing Company. Linden teamed up with the company to help develop its new beer, 26.2 Brew.

Linden prioritizes mental strength training as much as she does physical strength training — and that may give her an edge. Mental toughness is "something that's often neglected," she said. "We just don't really invest a lot of time in it."

The good news is, anyone "can absolutely improve on it," said Linden. "We train our bodies. We train our guts. … You can train all these different things and it only makes sense that you can train your mind."

Research backs her up: It's been shown that you can develop grit. And whether you're running a marathon or gunning for a promotion at work, being mentally tough can separate you from the pack.

As psychologist Angela Duckworth found after studying what it takes to be successful for years, raw talent alone isn't always enough. You need resilience to help you persevere even in the face of obstacles, she writes in her book "Grit": "Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn't."

Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn't.
Angela Duckworth
psychologist, author

"We all go through ups and downs," said Linden, who will be running her seventh Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15. What's important is how you handle the setbacks. Particularly today, "in an age of instant gratification," she adds, it's easy to forget that success "actually takes years."

She added: "A lot of people will see last year's win, but what they don't realize is that it's 30 years in the making. It was my sixth time running Boston. It takes years to become an 'overnight success' and it's just showing up day after day and putting in the work."

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