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Run, Joan, Run: An Icon Returns for Another Marathon

Forty years after her first Boston Marathon win, Joan Benoit Samuelson is running again.

Back in 1979,  21-year-old college student Joan Benoit crushed the Boston Marathon. Wearing a Boston Red Sox cap and Bowdoin College tank, she won with a then-record time of 2:35.15. In 1983, she won the race again with an astonishing world-record pace: 2:22.43—a time that stood as the fastest result by an American woman at that race for 28 years!

Guess what? Though Wikipedia may list her status as retired and she hasn’t run the Boston Marathon since 2015, she’s ba-ack to mark the 40th anniversary of her first Boston win. Next month, on April 15th, at age 61, Joan Benoit Samuelson is going to cover those 26-plus miles again. Since her initial win, she’s added some feathers to her cap, as the saying goes.

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The Record Book

Joan Benoit Samuelson: An Icon Returns for Another Marathon | NextTribe

Joan and her daughter at the Chicago Marathon in 2018. Image: Joan Benoit Samuelson/Instagram

She won the first-ever women’s Olympic Games marathon, earning a gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and setting the existing women’s American record in the Olympic Marathon. (With typical modesty, Joan says she keeps the medal tucked in a dresser drawer.)  She held the fastest time for an American woman at the Chicago Marathon for 32 years after winning the race in 1985.

Benoit Samuelson has been an inspiring example of what ‘masters’ age athletes can achieve.

And in more recent years, she has been an inspiring example of what “masters” age athletes can achieve. Joan raced her way to a super-speedy sub-2:50 at age 50 at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Boston. In 2010, at age 53, she ran 2:47:50 in Chicago, which represents a record for that age. Two years later, she ran 2:50:33 in Boston to nab the 55–59 age-group record, which still stands. Talk about a legacy!

Of her return to the race, Joan has said, “My goal is to run within 40 minutes of my time 40 years ago. I might as well celebrate during an anniversary year, while I’m still able!” Sounds like she’ll be able to tackle this race for years to come. Go, Joan, go! NextTribe is cheering you on as you age—and race—boldly.

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By Janet Siroto


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