Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series, interviewing US Olympic athletes on the eve of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

Marathoner Desiree Davila will be representing the Stars and Stripes at this summer’s Olympic Games In London. Last year she was steps away from winning the Boston Marathon. Her runner-up time of 2:22:38 is an American record on the Boston course and made her the third fastest American marathoner in history.

We chatted with Desiree as she prepares to depart on her Olympic quest in a wide ranging conversation that touched on music, motivation and the Olympic experience. Follow this medal contender’s journey to London on Twitter at Twitter.com/Des_Davila. You can also check out her playlist here. We can’t promise that listening to it will make you an Olympian, but it’s worth a shot.

First off, congrats! We’re excited to cheer you on in London. What part of the Olympic experience are you most excited about?** **

I’m most excited about the competition, being in one of the strongest female marathon fields ever, and testing myself against the best.

We hear you’re a whisky connoisseur, favorite flavor? Neat, rocks or with water?

‘Connoisseur’ is probably giving me too much credit but I’m definitely an enthusiast. I’m a big fan of bourbon but I’m venturing into ryes and scotch. Generally I prefer it neat or straight up, but it really depends on the whiskey.

(Courtesy of Garmin)
**You recently threw out the first pitch at a Detroit Tigers game, what was that like? **

That was an incredible experience and a huge honor to be invited by the Tigers organization. Honestly, I was pretty nervous about the whole thing, that’s a lot of people watching you throw a ball. I could have afforded to warm my arm up a bit more, but it was an alright pitch.

In endurance sports there are no shortcuts, where do you draw the strength it takes to be where you are today?

I enjoy the process, it is a lot of work, but it’s fun and exciting for me to challenge myself and find out how far I can push myself. If you really want to know how good you can be you have to put in the work everyday, you can’t cheat yourself, and that’s what gets me out the door each day.

When did you realize that you had it in you to be one of the best in the world, what did that realization feel like?

I can’t say I’ve ever had a light bulb moment where I felt like I could reach a certain level. Even now I take it day by day and focus on the little steps that will help me improve. How far it takes me is still to be determined.

Fast forward to London: You’re getting ready on the morning of the race, what are you listening to?

Muddy Waters – I’m Ready

(Courtesy of Garmin)
**You’re on the 26th mile, what are you thinking about?**

The last mile I’m trying to stay as composed and relaxed as possible while digging deeper and hurting more than ever before.

If you could hear one song over the loudspeakers during that last mile and half, what would it be?

For the last 1.5 of a marathon I’d pick, Bush – MachineHead. The very centering lyric, “Breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out,” with the aggressive opening riff – perfection!

What role does music play in your training? In your life?** **

While I don’t listen to music during training, I do use it to set the tone before a workout or race, whether it’s getting fired up or playing something soothing to keep me relaxed. Outside of running I’ll put on some tunes before turning on the TV any day. I’m always looking for new bands and sounds.

What’s your favorite running route?

A Southern California route from my childhood – Torrey Pines Beach out to Swamis and back, you run on dirt roads along the coast the entire way; tough to beat.

What’s your routine like the night before a big race? Favorite pre-race meal?

(Courtesy of Garmin)
I keep it pretty simple: write out a race plan, set out everything I’ll need for race day, and kick my feet up and relax. I usually have some type of pasta before the race, the big thing is nothing new before race day.

Any advice for people just getting into the sport?

Be patient, results don’t come overnight. Keep putting in the work and enjoy the process.

To view/listen to Desiree’s playlist, click here