Joan Benoit Samuelson

A Champion for Women in Distance Running

Joan Benoit Samuelson shocked the world when she made a risky early break at the inaugural women’s Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles in 1984. She ran alone for the final 21 miles of the race and became an instant icon when she won the gold medal. Her numerous history-making achievements, as well as her passion, grace, and discipline, have made her one of the legends of distance running.


Never Giving Up


Benoit Samuelson began running as recovery for a skiing injury. She ran track and cross country at Bowdoin College, and in her senior year she won the 1979 Boston Marathon in 2:35:15, setting an American record. In 1983 in Boston, she took more than two minutes off the world record when she ran 2:22:43 for the win.


She came up against seemingly impossible odds when she injured her knee while training for the first U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials. Just 17 days after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery she won the Trials race, and went on to her victory in Los Angeles. In a showdown with Norway’s Ingrid Kristiansen at the 1985 Chicago Marathon, Benoit Samuelson prevailed in 2:21:21, an American record that stood for many years until it was broken by Deena Kastor.


Lifelong Commitment


In 2008, she ran a sub-2:50 marathon at age 50 at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Boston. In 2013, at age 55 and 30 years after her 1983 record-breaking Boston performance, she rwon the 55–59 age group in 2:50:29. She continues to race at a high competitive level in her 60s.


Giving Back to the Sport


As a competitor, philanthropist, and mentor, Benoit Samuelson has redefined the concept of a lifetime runner. She continues to spread her love of running and her credo of passionate determination around the world.

Race History

International Marathon Highlights

Year Event Time
1979 Boston Marathon 2:35:15
1981 Boston Marathon 2:30:17
1983 Boston Marathon 2:22:43
1984 Los Angeles Olympic Marathon 2:24:52
1985 Chicago Marathon 2:21:21
1988 New York City Marathon 2:32:40
1991 Boston Marathon 2:26:54
1991 New York City Marathon 2:33:49

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