Joan Benoit

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Joan Benoit
Joan Benoit 2008.jpg
Personal information
Full nameJoan Benoit Samuelson
Born (1957-05-16) May 16, 1957 (age 61)
Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Residence Freeport, Maine
Height5 ft 2 in (157 cm)
Weight100 lb (45 kg)
Spouse(s)Scott Samuelson (m. September 1984) [1]
Sport Track and field athletics
Event(s) 3000 m, Marathon
College team Bowdoin, North Carolina State
Club Athletics West
Coached byBob Sevene
Achievements and titles
Olympic finals 1984

Joan Benoit Samuelson (born May 16, 1957) is a retired American marathon runner who was the first-ever women's Olympic Games marathon champion, winning the Gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and thus setting the existing women’s American record in the Olympic Marathon. [2] She held the fastest time for an American woman at the Chicago Marathon for 32 years after winning the race in 1985. [3] [4] Her time at the Boston Marathon was the fastest time by an American woman at that race for 28 years. [5] She was inducted into the Maine Women's Hall of Fame in 2000.

Americans citizens, or natives, of the United States of America

Americans are nationals and citizens of the United States of America. Although nationals and citizens make up the majority of Americans, some dual citizens, expatriates, and permanent residents may also claim American nationality. The United States is home to people of many different ethnic origins. As a result, American culture and law does not equate nationality with race or ethnicity, but with citizenship and permanent allegiance.

Running method of terrestrial locomotion allowing humans and other animals to move rapidly on foot

Running is a method of terrestrial locomotion allowing humans and other animals to move rapidly on foot. Running is a type of gait characterized by an aerial phase in which all feet are above the ground. This is in contrast to walking, where one foot is always in contact with the ground, the legs are kept mostly straight and the center of gravity vaults over the stance leg or legs in an inverted pendulum fashion. A characteristic feature of a running body from the viewpoint of spring-mass mechanics is that changes in kinetic and potential energy within a stride occur simultaneously, with energy storage accomplished by springy tendons and passive muscle elasticity. The term running can refer to any of a variety of speeds ranging from jogging to sprinting.

Olympic Games major international sport event

The modern Olympic Games or Olympics are leading international sporting events featuring summer and winter sports competitions in which thousands of athletes from around the world participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games are considered the world's foremost sports competition with more than 200 nations participating. The Olympic Games are held every four years, with the Summer and Winter Games alternating by occurring every four years but two years apart.


Competitive life and Boston Marathon victories

Born in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, Benoit took to long-distance running to help recover from a broken leg suffered while slalom skiing. [6] At Bowdoin College she excelled in athletics. In 1977, after two years at Bowdoin, she accepted a running scholarship to North Carolina State, where she began concentrating solely on her running. She earned All-America honors at NC State in both 1977 and 1978, and in 1978 helped lead the Wolfpack to the Atlantic Coast Conference cross-country championship. After returning to Bowdoin to complete her degree, she entered the 1979 Boston Marathon as a relative unknown. She won the race, wearing a Boston Red Sox cap, [7] in 2:35:15, knocking eight minutes off the competition record. In 1981, she captured the U.S. 10,000 meter championship, posting a time of 33:37.50. Despite having surgery on her Achilles tendons two years earlier, she repeated her marathon success with a victory in 1983, setting a course record of 2:22:43. That took more than two minutes off the world's best time, set by Norway's Grete Waitz in the London Marathon only a day earlier. Her Boston record was not broken for another 11 years. [8]

Cape Elizabeth, Maine Town in Maine, United States

Cape Elizabeth is a town in Cumberland County, Maine, United States. The town is part of the Portland–South Portland–Biddeford, Maine, metropolitan statistical area. As of the 2010 census, Cape Elizabeth had a population of 9,015.

Slalom skiing alpine skiing discipline

Slalom is an alpine skiing and alpine snowboarding discipline, involving skiing between poles or gates. These are spaced more closely than those in giant slalom, super giant slalom and downhill, necessitating quicker and shorter turns. Internationally, the sport is contested at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, and at the Olympic Winter Games.

Bowdoin College private liberal arts college in Brunswick, Maine

Bowdoin College is a private liberal arts college in Brunswick, Maine. At the time Bowdoin was chartered, in 1794, Maine was still a part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The college offers 34 majors and 36 minors, as well as several joint engineering programs with Columbia, Caltech, Dartmouth College, and The University of Maine.

Olympic success and later life

Benoit in 1984 Joan Benoit (9516901513).jpg
Benoit in 1984

In March 1984, Benoit injured her knee severely during a 20-mile training run, forcing her to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery just 17 days before the United States Olympic Women's Marathon Trials were scheduled. However, she recovered from the surgery much more quickly than expected, and was the favorite in the trials, at Olympia, Washington. She beat runner-up Julie Brown by 30 seconds, winning in 2:31:04. Three months later, she competed in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, winning the first Olympic Women's Marathon in 2:24:52, several hundred meters ahead of Grete Waitz, Rosa Mota, and Ingrid Kristiansen. [9]

Olympia, Washington State capital and city in Washington, United States

Olympia is the capital of the U.S. state of Washington and the county seat of Thurston County. European settlers claimed the area in 1846, with the Treaty of Medicine Creek initiated in 1854, and the Treaty of Olympia initiated in January 1856.

Julie Ann Brown is an American retired distance runner. She won the IAAF World Cross Country Championship in 1975 and represented the United States in the 1984 Summer Olympics in the women's marathon, placing 36th.

Grete Waitz Norwegian marathon runner and former world record holder

Grete Waitz was a Norwegian marathon runner and former world record holder. In 1979, she became the first woman in history to run the marathon in under two and a half hours. She won nine New York City Marathons between 1978 and 1988, more than any other runner in history. She won a silver medal at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and a gold medal at the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki. Her other marathon victories included winning the London Marathon in 1983 and 1986. She was also a five-time winner of the World Cross Country Championships.

Benoit enjoyed success at non-marathon distances as well, winning the prestigious Falmouth Road Race (7.1 miles) a total of six times (1976, 1978, 1981–1983, and 1985), breaking the course record on four of those occasions.

Falmouth Road Race

The Falmouth Road Race is an annual 7.0-mile (11.3 km) road race on Cape Cod from Woods Hole, a village in the town of Falmouth, Massachusetts, to Falmouth Heights.

Although she won the 1985 Chicago marathon, defeating Kristiansen and Mota in an American Record time of 2:21:21 (that would last as the AR for 18 years until broken by Deena Kastor in 2003 in London), [10] Benoit was hampered for some years after her Olympic victory by injuries and struggled to compete in major races. She received the 1985 James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States.

Chicago City in Illinois, United States

Chicago, officially the City of Chicago, is the most populous city in Illinois, as well as the third most populous city in the United States. With an estimated population of 2,716,450 (2017), it is the most populous city in the Midwest. Chicago is the principal city of the Chicago metropolitan area, often referred to as Chicagoland, and the county seat of Cook County, the second most populous county in the United States. The metropolitan area, at nearly 10 million people, is the third-largest in the United States, and the fourth largest in North America and the third largest metropolitan area in the world by land area.

Deena Kastor athletics competitor, long distance runner, and marathoner

Deena Michelle Kastor is an American long-distance runner. She holds American records in the marathon and numerous road distances. She won the bronze medal in the women's marathon at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. She is also an eight-time national champion in cross country.

The AAU James E. Sullivan Award, presented by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), is awarded annually in April to "the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States". Representatives from the AAU created the AAU Sullivan Award with the intent to recognize amateur contributions and achievements from non-professional athletes across the country.

Benoit wrote Running Tide (1987) and Running for Women (1995).

In 1998 she founded the Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race, a 10 km (6.2 mi) race held in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, each August, going from Crescent Beach State Park to Fort Williams Park and Portland Head Light. The race attracts many of the world's top distance runners. Elite runners often run this race and then, the following weekend, run the Falmouth Road Race on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Benoit won that race several times, and ran it last in 2015, finishing as 25th woman and first in her age group.

Beach to Beacon 10K 10k running event

The Beach to Beacon 10K is a 10-kilometer (6.2 mi) road running event that takes place along the coastline of Cape Elizabeth, Maine. It begins at Crescent Beach State Park and ends at the Portland Head Light in Fort Williams Park.

Cape Cod Cape in the northeastern United States

Cape Cod is a geographic cape extending into the Atlantic Ocean from the southeastern corner of mainland Massachusetts, in the northeastern United States. Its historic, maritime character and ample beaches attract heavy tourism during the summer months.

Massachusetts State of the United States of America

Massachusetts, officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It borders on the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island to the south, New Hampshire and Vermont to the north, and New York to the west. The state is named after the Massachusett tribe, which once inhabited the east side of the area, and is one of the original thirteen states. The capital of Massachusetts is Boston, which is also the most populous city in New England. Over 80% of Massachusetts's population lives in the Greater Boston metropolitan area, a region influential upon American history, academia, and industry. Originally dependent on agriculture, fishing and trade, Massachusetts was transformed into a manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. During the 20th century, Massachusetts's economy shifted from manufacturing to services. Modern Massachusetts is a global leader in biotechnology, engineering, higher education, finance, and maritime trade.

In 2003, at age 46, Benoit won the Maine half-marathon, defeating a field dominated by runners two decades her junior, and she was faster than all but six men overall, finishing in 1:18. In 2006, she helped pace former cycling champion Lance Armstrong as he competed in the New York City Marathon. At the 2008 US Olympic Team trials, at the age of 50, she finished in 2:49:08, setting a new US 50+ record and beating her personal goal at the time of a mid-2:50s marathon. When she ran the New York City Marathon on November 1, 2009, she broke the 50+ division record with a final time of 2:49:09. [11] On October 10, 2010, she ran 2:47:50 for 43rd place at the Chicago Marathon—the site of her American record a quarter century earlier—missing her goal of qualifying for an eighth Olympic Marathon Team Trials race by 1:50, but recording the fastest-ever performance by a woman over 52. Later that month she ran in the Athens Classic Marathon for fun and finished in 3:02, the slowest time of her career; she was not fully healed from her Chicago performance. [12] In April 2011, Joan competed in the Boston Marathon, completing the course in 2:51:29 and placing 1st in her age group. In 2019, Samuelson ran the Boston Marathon again, forty years after her 1979 win. She had hoped to be within 40 minutes of her 1979 time, but did even better than that with a time of 3:04:00, within thirty minutes of her winning time. [13]

Benoit resides in Freeport, Maine, [14] where the high school athletic complex is named the "Joan Benoit Samuelson Track and Field". [15] In addition to her running, she currently serves as a coach to women's cross-country and long-distance athletes, and is a motivational speaker and sports commentator. She is featured on the Nike+ iPod system as one of the congratulatory voices. Benoit and husband Scott Samuelson have two children, daughter Abby and son Anders, who are runners in their own right, and shared the running of the 2014 Boston Marathon with their mother. [16]

She was inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in 1998, the Maine Women's Hall of Fame in 2000, [17] the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2004 and the USATF Masters Hall of Fame in 2014. In 2017, a plaque honoring her was unveiled in the L.A. Memorial Coliseum’s Court of Honor. [18]

In 2019, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of her first Boston Marathon win, Benoit and her daughter Anna ran together as they had done in previous marathons. Joan recorded a run time of 3:04:00, which was within 40 minutes of her original time [19] which was a promise she had made prior to competing in this years edition of the Boston Marathon. Samuelson finished first in the female 60-64 age group by nearly nine minutes.

Notable marathoning achievements

Representing the Flag of the United States.svg  United States
1978 Bermuda Marathon Bermuda 2nd2:50:54
1979 Boston Marathon Boston, United States 1st2:35:15
1980 Auckland Marathon Auckland, New Zealand 1st2:31:23
1981 Boston Marathon Boston, United States 3rd2:30:17
1982 Nike OTC Marathon Eugene, United States 1st2:26:12
1983 Boston Marathon Boston, United States 1st2:22:43
1984 Summer Olympics Los Angeles, United States 1st2:24:52
1985 Chicago Marathon Chicago, United States1st2:21:21
1988 New York City Marathon New York City, United States 3rd2:32:40
1991 Boston Marathon Boston, United States 4th2:26:54
1991 New York City Marathon New York City, United States 6th2:33:49
2019 Boston Marathon Boston, United States DNP3:04:00

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  1. "Joan Benoit Samuelson - A Born Athlete - Marathon, Women, Olympic, and Boston - JRank Articles". Retrieved 2017-06-30.
  3. "Bank of America Chicago Marathon". Retrieved 2018-10-24.
  4. "Race history - Bank of America Chicago Marathon". Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Retrieved 2018-10-24.
  5. "10 Best American Marathoners of All Time". 2014-08-12. Retrieved 2018-10-24.
  6. The Marathon's Maine woman, Sports Illustrated , Kenny Moore, May 2, 1983. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  7. Cool Running :: Olympic Champion Joan Benoit Samuelson To Be Guest of Honor at Manchester Marathon Archived 2012-01-11 at the Wayback Machine
  8. 2004 Boston Marathon Media Guide, published by Boston Athletic Association with John Hancock
  9. 1984 Olympic Marathon
  10. Bank of America Chicago Marathon: What You Need to Know Retrieved October 9, 2010
  11. Joan Benoit Samuelson '79 Sets NYC Marathon Record, Campus News (Bowdoin)
  12. "Greek For a Day". Runner's World. 2011-02-04. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  13. Doherty, Matthew. "Joan Benoit Samuelson easily meets her goal in 2019 Boston Marathon - The Boston Globe". Retrieved 2019-04-15.
  14. "Samuelson sets 50-plus record at NYC Marathon". USA Today. Associated Press. November 1, 2002. Retrieved 2009-11-02.
  15. "Freeport opens brand new track and field". CBS. WGME-TV. May 18, 2018. Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  16. "Monday a Special Day for Samuelson Family: Joan Benoit Samuelson and her two children run well at Boston Marathon".
  17. "Benoit Samuelson named to Hall of Fame". Sun Journal . 18 February 2000. p. C18.
  18. Latimer, Jolene (2017-06-22). "Female Olympic Athletes Honored Over 50 Years Later | GOOD Sports". Retrieved 2017-06-30.
  19. McArdle, Tommy (2019-04-15). "Joan Benoit Samuelson made good on her 2019 Boston Marathon promise;". Retrieved 2019-04-15.
Preceded by
Flag of Norway.svg Grete Waitz
Women's marathon world record holder
April 18, 1983 April 21, 1985
Succeeded by
Flag of Norway.svg Ingrid Kristiansen
Preceded by
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Marja Wokke
Women's half marathon
world record holder

1981-01-18 1982-05-15
Succeeded by
Flag of Norway.svg Grete Waitz
Preceded by
Flag of Norway.svg Grete Waitz
Women's half marathon
world record holder

1983-09-18 1989-03-19
Succeeded by
Flag of Norway.svg Ingrid Kristiansen