By Scott Malone
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - U.S. marathon runner Desiree Linden has been there, done that and can now wear the T-shirt with pride.
After dropping out of the Olympic marathon in London four years ago, Linden, 33, hung on on Sunday to finish in a seventh-place two hours, 26 minutes and eight seconds. The result allows her to let go of the bad 2012 memories, which had left her reluctant to describe herself as an Olympian, she said.
"I can be proud of it now. Before it was something I just, like, didn't want to talk about, so I never brought it up," she said, wearing an ice vest to cool her body after the performance in 26-degree Celsius (79°F) heat. "I'll wear the T-shirt now. If people ask, I can have a story, and not be like, 'Yeah, I was there but not really."
American marathon runners of both sexes have struggled to win over the past decade, routinely losing top races including New York and Boston to Ethiopian and Kenyan rivals. The pattern repeated on Sunday when Kenya's Jelagat Sumgong crossed the line in Rio's Sambadrome.
Fellow Americans three-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan, 35, finished just ahead of Linden in 2:25:26, while Amy Cragg, 32, took ninth in 2:28:25.
"Three people finishing is something we haven't done in a long time, right? So three in the top ten is spectacular and I look at it as a testament to group training," said Linden, of Chula Vista, California.
She burst on to the U.S. running scene in 2011 when she finished second in the Boston Marathon to Kenya's Caroline Kilel, posting a 2:22:38 that stands as a record for American women at the 120-year-old race.
But Linden declined to say if she had her sights on a third Olympic performance in Tokyo in 2020.
"I'm not thinking that far. I'm thinking about my dinner," Linden said. That particular decision has already been made, she said: "Burger and a beer."
(Reporting by Scott Malone, editing by Neil Robinson)