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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

New England Sports 366, #50: Joan Benoit Samuelson

A Maine native (born in Cape Elizabeth in 1957), Joan Benoit Samuelson is one of the most accomplished and decorated American distance runners ever. She went to Bowdoin before she transferred to NC State for a scholarship and two All-American nods. At the age of 21 she came out of nowhere to win the Boston Marathon in 2:35:15, eight minutes better than the previous women's course record. She won Boston again in 1983, with another record time of 2:22:43. That was a world record in the marathon, and stood as the Boston record for eleven years.

Later that year, she'd win gold at Los Angeles in the first Olympic women's marathon. In 1985 she won the Chicago Marathon in 2:21:21, which would be the American record until 2003 and the Chicago course record until 2017. In the meantime she won the elite Falmouth Road Race (a 7.1 mile distance) six times with four course records.

Benoit continues to run and continues to set records for marathon times in every age group she finds herself in. In 2013, at the age of 56, she ran a 2:50:29 at Boston, finishing in the top 50 of all women. Six years later, at sixty-two, she ran Boston on the 40th anniversary of her first win there and finished in a shade over three hours.

She's in the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, the Maine Women's Hall of Fame, the USATF Masters Hall of Fame, and the National Distance Running Hall of Fame. This is a famous runner. And she still lives and coaches and runs in Freeport, Maine.

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