Thursday, April 17, 2008

Running Icon Joan Benoit Samuelson Still Inspires

It’s been 24 years since the first women’s Olympic marathon champion broke on the world scene in Los Angeles. Joan Benoit Samuelson was a bundle of energy who managed to steal the hearts of Americans and forever change the sport of running for women in this country.

A recent New York Times article accurately calls her “The Matriarch of Marathoning,” because at the ripe age of 50, Joan is running along with one hundred and sixty-two of the top female marathon runners at the women's United States Olympic Marathon Trials this weekend in Boston.

The running legend has no illusions of making the Olympic team, however she managed to qualify, so she’s running. When asked about qualifying she said, “Oh, God, no,” she said. “It’s just me against me. I want to run 2:50 at age 50.” This is the same runner that helped pace former cycling champion Lance Armstrong at the New York Marathon in 2006.

Prior to Joan winning the gold in 1984, women had been deemed to be too weak to run such a distance. I can still remember when she came into the Los Angeles Coliseum alone that day to the roar of the crowd.

The sight of Joan wearing that white hat, turning into the stadium is an iconic Olympic moment.

Joan Benoit Samuelson transcended running at that moment because she inspired and connected with the best in each of us. What is cool is that 24 years later, she is doing the same thing.

By Jay Hicks, a.k.a. Track Evangelist.


  1. Thanks so much for the story! I started running 25 years ago at age 30 and was truly inspired by Joan and even had a white hat. Finally at age 53 years, I decided to run my first marathon and the guest speaker was at the prerace dinner was Joan. Her message was to always run your own race and I plan to do that...Paula

  2. @ Paula: Wow, thanks for sharing your story about Joan. It's incredible that the individual who inspired you to run was there at another monumental achievement in your life. The running world is lucky to have Joan.