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Joan Benoit wins her second Boston Marathon in the women’s division with a time of 2:22:43 on April 18, 1983. The following year, she went on to win the first-ever women’s marathon at the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles and became the first person to win Boston as well as Olympic gold.
A native of Maine, Benoit turned to long-distance running in high school after a ski injury. In 1979, as a senior at Bowdoin College, Benoit won her first Boston Marathon with a time of 2:35:15. Four years later, on April 18, 1983, Benoit won her second Boston Marathon, with a record time of 2:22:43. Greg Meyer of Massachusetts was the men’s winner that year, with a time of 2:09:00. As of 2007, Meyer was the last American man to win the Boston Marathon, which has been dominated by Kenyans in recent decades.
The inaugural Boston Marathon was run on April 19, 1897, and was a men-only event until 1972, when women were officially allowed to compete. The first female winner, Nina Kuscsik, finished with a time of 3:10:26 and was one of eight women who ran the race that year.
The first modern Olympic marathon was run at the 1896 Games in Athens. Eighty-eight years later, the first-ever women’s Olympic Marathon was run at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Less than three weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, Benoit won her Olympic trials. On August 5, 1984, she took home the gold medal with a time of 2:24:52, defeating Grete Waitz of Norway and Rosa Mota of Portugal.
Following the Olympics, Benoit returned to Maine, got married (and changed her name to Joan Benoit Samuelson) and had a family. In October 1985, she won the Chicago Marathon with a time of 2:21:21, setting a record that held for 21 years for the fastest U.S. female marathon time. After retiring from professional racing, she became a motivational speaker, author and commentator. In 2006, Benoit Samuelson helped pace champion cyclist Lance Armstrong in his first New York City Marathon.
Still in college, Joan Benoit entered the Boston Marathon in 1979. She got caught in traffic on the way to the race and ran two miles to get to the starting point before the race began. Despite that extra running, and starting at the back of the pack, she pulled ahead and won the marathon, with a time of 2:35:15. She returned to Maine to finish her last year of college and attempted to avoid the publicity and interviews that she disliked so much. Beginning in 1981, she coached at Boston University.
In December of 1981, Benoit had surgery on both Achilles tendons, to try to cure recurring heel pain. The following September, she won a New England marathon with a time of 2:26:11, a record for women, beating a previous record by 2 minutes.
In April of 1983, she entered the Boston Marathon again. Grete Waitz had set a new world record for women the day before at 2:25:29. Allison Roe of New Zealand was expected to win she had come in first among the women in the 1981 Boston Marathon. The day provided excellent weather for running. Roe dropped out because of leg cramps, and Joan Benoit beat Waitz's record by more than 2 minutes, at 2:22:42. This was good enough to qualify her for the Olympics. Still shy, she was gradually getting used to the inevitability of publicity.
A challenge was raised to Benoit's marathon record: it was claimed that she had an unfair advantage from "pacing," because men's marathon runner Kevin Ryan ran with her for 20 miles. The records committee decided to let her record stand.
Gibb, Roberta (1943—)
American marathon runner. Name variations: Roberta Gibb Bingay Bobbi Gibb. Born in 1943 graduated from Tufts University and New England School of Law married to a Tufts University distance runner children.
In 1984, Joan Benoit Samuelson was honored for winning the first U.S. Olympic Marathon trials. The statue that she tucked under her arm that day was sculpted by Roberta "Bobbi" Gibb, the woman who dared to run the Boston Marathon before it was open to women. Gibb had paved the way for Samuelson, whose early career as an elite runner was very much tied to the Boston race.
Roberta Gibb was born in 1943, grew up in Winchester, Massachusetts, and in 1964 witnessed her first Boston Marathon, which at the time was limited to males. Gibb was so impressed with the race that she fell in love with the idea of running. "I started to train but had no coach, no notion of how to train, no encouragement, no role models," she wrote in her brief autobiography To Boston With Love. "So I just kept running farther and farther—curious to see how far I could go and how fast." Gibb felt ready to put her training to the test in 1966, but when she applied to the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) for an official Marathon number, she was turned down on the grounds that women were incapable of covering the 26.2-mile distance. She decided to defy authority and enter the race unofficially. "My outrage turned to humor as I thought how many preconceived prejudices would crumble when I trotted right along for 26 miles," she wrote. Gibb's mother, who thought her daughter had "gone mad," drove her to the starting line in Hopkinton on the morning of the race. Clad in a black bathing suit, her brother's Bermuda shorts, and a blue hooded sweatshirt pulled up to cover her long blonde ponytail, Gibb leapt unnoticed from the bushes at the starting line, joining the 500 official male runners. Growing over-heated as she approached Wellesley, she whipped off her sweatshirt, thus changing the Boston Marathon forever.
Gibb was exhilarated by the response of the Wellesley College women who cheered her on, but after 20 miles, the combination of new shoes, dehydration (she was told water would cause cramps), and the roast beef dinner she had consumed the night before began to take a toll. But she persevered. "I was going to get to that finish line if I had to crawl," she said later. "If I'd dropped out, it probably would have set women's running back 20 years." She finished the race at 125th with an estimated time of 3:21:40, beating 290 male competitors. Still, authorities stood firm on their ban of women from the race.
The following year, Gibb ran again, joined by Kathy Switzer , a track athlete from Syracuse University who gained official entry by applying as K. Switzer. A few miles into the race, BAA race official Jock Semple jumped off the press bus and tried to remove Switzer, but her boyfriend wrestled him to the ground. Switzer went on to complete the race, coming in an hour behind Gibb, who finished in 3:27:17. In 1968, with women still denied official entry, three women ran with Gibb, who again finished first in the unofficial field. The next year, Gibb did not run, but Sara Mae Berman of Cambridge joined the women's field, winning with a time of 3:22:46. She cut her time to 3:05:07 in 1970, and won the field again in 1971. In 1972, BAA officials finally allowed women to enter the Marathon, provided they met the men's qualifying time of 3:30. Eight women met the standard that year, including Nina Kuscsik , who became the first sanctioned women's winner, with a time of 3:10:26.
Roberta Gibb, an attorney as well as a sculptor, divides her time between Delmar, California, and Rockport, Massachusetts. She returned to Boston in 1996 to run the 100th Marathon, which also marked the 30th anniversary of her breakthrough run. Interviewed at the time by Associated Press journalist Carolyn Thompson , Gibb recalled the headlines from the day after her groundbreaking race. "Hub Bride First Gal to Run Marathon" and "Blonde Wife, 23, Runs Marathon," they read. There were also pictures of her smiling at the finish line and making fudge at home "to show I really was a woman," she said.
Docherty, Bonnie. "Roberta Gibb paved the way for future generations of women," in Middlesex News. April 20, 1997.
Thompson, Carolyn. "Gibb recalls her historic run," in The Day [New London, CT]. April 6, 1996.
MEYER WINS BOSTON MARATHON JOAN BENOIT SETS WORLD MARK
Greg Meyer won the Boston Marathon in 2 hours 9 minutes today. But it was Joan Benoit, shattering the women's world record by 2 minutes 47 seconds, who left an astonishing imprint on the 87th annual race.
Having moved so swiftly in the early stages of the 26-mile-385-yard journey that some concerned male runners shouted, ''Lady, you better watch it!'' the 25-year-old Miss Benoit finished 121st among the 6,600 starters with a time of 2:22:42. Allison Roe of New Zealand and Grete Waitz of Norway had shared the world mark at 2:25:29.
Miss Benoit, who lives in Watertown, Mass., and won the women's division here in 1979, is the first American to hold the women's world record since Jacqueline Hansen, almost eight years ago.
The extent of her dominance today was reflected in the second-place women's time: 2:29:27, by Jacqueline Gareau of Canada, almost seven minutes behind the winner's clocking.
''Yesterday morning Allison called me and said, 'I just want to tell you Grete got the world record in London,' '' Miss Benoit said later, recalling how she had learned of Mrs. Waitz's victorious performance in the London Marathon. ''I said that I used to want to go out and run someone in the ground. But this time I felt I just wanted to run the best I was capable of running.'' Performance 'Phenomenal'
Bill Squires, Meyer's coach and an authority on long-distance running, described Miss Benoit's performance as ''phenomenal,'' the equivalent of a 2:07 marathon for a man. ''What Joanie's done,'' Squires continued, ''is to prove a woman's body build is ideal for running.''
The victories by the 27-year-old Meyer, who lives in nearby Wellesley, and Miss Benoit, who is the women's distance coach at Boston University, were greeted with gusto by the throngs of spectators who lined the course from suburban Hopkinton to the finish at the Prudential Center. An early tailwind, overcast 40-degree weather and improved crowd control on the course helped 84 runners break 2:20, with 69 American men finishing under the 2:19:04 qualifying time for the United States Olympic Trials next year.
Not all runners enjoyed every step. Mrs. Roe dropped out after 17 miles, and Bill Rodgers faded to 10th in 2:11:58, offering no excuses but undoubtedly affected by a weeklong cold that left him dizzy even after his arrival in Hopkinton for the start of the race.
''I felt good halfway,'' said Rodgers, 'ɻut I just seemed to die in the middle. The whole pack took off at 15 miles. ''It seems to happen more and more,'' the 35-year-old four-time champion said. ''They don't come back.'' Kelley, 75, Finishes
George Crerar of Franklin, Mass., a 50-year-old runner whose Tshirt bore the signatures of dozens of friends who had pledged $5,780 to fight multiple sclerosis, finished in 2:59. ''I thought it was going to be a great day,'' said Crerar, 'ɻut at 23 miles it fell apart.''
Johnny Kelley, 75 years old and running in his 52d Boston Marathon, finished in 4:23:56. Meyer, one of America's swiftest road racers, ran Boston for the first time two years ago, leading briefly after 16 miles before winding up 11th. Minutes before the start of today's race, in the men's room of the First Congregational Church in Hopkinton, he asked Rodgers, a longtime friend, ''How come you always feel bad before a race like this?''
If he was nervous, the 5-foot-9-inch, 146-pound Meyer was also unusually confident after a solid six-week training program and strong recent performances on the road and the track. In second place, he followed the leader at 10 miles, Benji Durden of Stone Mountain, Ga. (49:10). Then he challenged Durden on Boston's series of torturous hills.
Near the 18-mile mark, entering the first of the four hills, the 31-year-old Durden led Meyer by 12 seconds. By the time the two bearded rivals had reached the top of Heartbreak Hill three miles later, Meyer was in front by 16 seconds.
''He's probably a better hill runner than I am,'' said Durden, who finished third with a personal-best time (2:09:57), behind the strong-closing Ron Tabb of Eugene, Ore. (2:09:31). ''I thought I could do better, but I got a blister on my right foot, I had to change my stride on the hills, and my right hamstring began to cramp.'' Meyer Attacks the Hills
Meyer, who often trains on the hills, actually attacked them with more leg lift and cadenced-arm action than he had shown earlier in the race. As he passed Durden at the Newton City Hall, between the 19th and 20th miles, Durden told him, ''It looks like we've got a fast time.''
In fact, at 20 miles Meyer's time (1:37:11) was 18 seconds faster than Alberto Salazar's split during Salazar's world-best 2:08:13 at the 1981 New York City Marathon. Salazar, the defending champion, bypassed Boston, which served as the United States qualifier for the first world track and field championships in August in Helsinki.
Meyer and Miss Benoit both said they would skip the marathon at the world championships. But after today's performances (Meyer's was ninth on the all-time list), each looms as a formidable medal challenger for the Olympic Games in Los Angeles next year.
Meyer said he did not push the last three miles, in pursuit of Salazar's mark, because he ''tried to savor'' the feeling of being in front. At one point, he said, when he began to see familiar faces near Cleveland Circle and Boston College, he 'ɺlmost cried'' and actually lost his concentration, thinking about what he might say and do at the finish line.
''There's not too many times a person gets to win Boston,'' he said. Miss Benoit's opening 10,000 meters, she said, was only five seconds slower than her American record of 31:43, which she set in a recent 10-kilometer road race.
''Guys were saying, 'She's going to die on the hills,' '' said Kevin Ryan, the former New Zealand star who accompanied Miss Benoit for most of the race while covering the women's division for a local television station. ''She was running the early part in surges. Every time the crowd started roaring, sheɽ pick up the pace.'' 2 Marks Set En Route
After eight miles, Miss Benoit asked Ryan about her speed. ''You're running a 5:09 pace,'' Ryan replied. ''What's that?'' Miss Benoit said, wondering what that might mean as a finish-line time. '➫out 2:16 at this bloody pace,'' Ryan responded. ''Oh, my God!'' Miss Benoit said, suddenly realizing how fast she was running. Miss Benoit's 10-mile split (51:38, an American record) ''scared me a little bit,'' she acknowledged afterward. Blisters, a side stitch in Wellesley, the need to slow down for water and Ryan's words of caution (''take it easy - cruise'') tempered Miss Benoit, but she still reached the half-marathon distance in 1:08:23, another American record, and the 20-mile mark in 1:46:44.
''It's great that women can run so fast, and the barrier is broken now,'' Miss Gareau, the second-place female finisher, said of the 2:25 standard. ''The 2:20 is the next time for women now. That's great. We're nearer and nearer the men now.''
8 Women Made History at Boston Marathon in 1972 --14,000 Registered in 2015 Race
On April 19, 1967, Kathrine Switzer, 20, a journalism major at Syracuse University, entered the Boston Marathon as "K.V. Switzer," wearing a bulky sweatsuit. At the time, the Amateur Athletics Union (AAU) did not admit women into marathons. Switzer became the first female to officially enter and run. The photo of a race official forcibly attempting to stop her and grabbing for her race numbers was the photo shot heard round the world. Life magazine listed the photo as one of the "100 Photographs That Changed The World."
Switzer was determined to cross the finish line, despite blistered and bloodied feet. She had to wear men's athletic shoes she had ordered from Europe. Quite a feat! Athletic shoes for females were not yet manufactured because there was not a large enough market.
The AAU did not formally accept females in long-distance running until the fall of 1971. Women officially started to compete in the Boston Marathon in 1972. That was the same year Congress passed Title IX, Ms. Magazine was launched and Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" topped the charts. Billie Jean King was named the first Sports Illustrated Sports Woman of the Year in 1972.
Nina Kuscsik's 1972 victory made her the first official Boston Marathon female champion in its 74-year history. That year eight females started the race and all eight finished. Kuscsik, 33, was the mother of three children under age six. Since the first eight women were officially entered and finished the Boston Marathon and groundbreaking Title IX legislation was passed, women's participation in long-distance events has grown and boomed.
Switzer went on to win the 1974 New York City Marathon, finishing 59th overall. In 1975, in the fourth Boston Marathon to officially recognize female competitors, Switzer finished second place.
It was a long-distance race for women to compete in local, national and world-wide marathons, leading up to the Olympic Marathon. In 1896, marathons became an Olympic sport, a year before the first Boston Marathon. Opponents to admitting women stated the race was too physically strenuous. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) issued a statement in 1980 that "there exists no conclusive scientific or medical evidence that long-distance running is contraindicated for the healthy trained female athlete. The ACSM recommends that females be allowed to compete at the national and international level in the same distances in which their male counterparts compete."
In February of 1981, the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) gave its approval for a women's marathon to be included in the l984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. The following September the IOC elected its first female members in its 84-year history and voted on the Board's recommendations that females had finally won the right to compete in an Olympic Marathon.
A two-time Boston Marathon winner (1979 and 1983), the following summer Joan Benoit Samuelson won the first Olympic Marathon for women, leading 50 women from 28 countries 44 finished. Switzer, women's running pioneer and long-time champion for the Olympic marathon, served as a commentator for ABC Sports. Samuelson became the first person to win both the Boston and Olympic Marathons. She won the 1985 Chicago Marathon and the Sullivan Award as the outstanding U.S. amateur athlete that year. Samuelson continued to set age-group records, including at 57, in the 2014 Boston Marathon.
The 2015 Boston Marathon entrant field consists of 46 percent females -- 13,682 females, along with 16,452 men. The women's winner now takes in $150,000., the same prize money as the men's. According to Running USA, 43 percent of finishers nationwide today are female -- almost 240,000 female finishers, compared to less than 20 percent of finishers during the 1970s.
Sole Searching: The Right to Shoes
The rise of female runners, marathoners and active athletes overall, has created an increasing mass market. Reebok introduced its first shoe designed especially for females in 1982. Nike named its first signature shoe model for a female, the Air Swoopes, for Sheryl Swoopes, in 1996. For too long, female athletes had to wear "shrink and pink" replicas of men's shoes in smaller sizes.
The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) reports that women's athletic shoes represent 22 percent of the market, making the women's sports footwear retail market about 4.8 billion in the U.S. Runners World launched Zelle, a website for female runners to share personal stories, in October.
Salute to Switzer
Switzer was named one of five running visionaries of the 20th century by Runners World. In 2011, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame, for her ongoing effort in creating positive social change around the world. A vocal champion for female runners and athletes, her lobbying and legwork, along with Kuscsik, led to the inaugural women's Olympic Marathon. Her 261 Fearless Movement, named for her original Boston Marathon bib number, in empowering women around the world through running. Switzer plans to run Boston again in 2017, the 50th anniversary of her initial run. You go girl!
Here's an interesting footnote. Appropriately, for a woman always on the run, Switzer met her husband, Roger Robinson, a former world-class runner, when they were both speaking at a running seminar in Australia. They moved to New Zealand and got married in 1987.
Read more about female runners and role models making historic milestones at
HISTORY OF THE BOSTON MARATHON
After experiencing the spirit and majesty of the Olympic Marathon, B.A.A. member and inaugural US Olympic Team Manager John Graham was inspired to organize and conduct a marathon in the Boston area. With the assistance of Boston businessman Herbert H. Holton, various routes were considered, before a measured distance of 24.5 miles from Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland to the Irvington Oval in Boston was eventually selected. On April 19, 1897, John J. McDermott of New York, emerged from a 15-member starting field and captured the first B.A.A. Marathon in 2:55:10, and, in the process, forever secured his name in sports history.
In 1924, the course was lengthened to 26 miles, 385 yards to conform to the Olympic standard, and the starting line was moved west from Ashland to Hopkinton.
The Marathon Distance
The 1896 Olympic marathon distance of 24.8 miles was based on the distance run, according to famous Greek legend, in which the Greek foot-soldier Pheidippides was sent from the plains of Marathon to Athens with the news of the astounding victory over a superior Persian army. Exhausted as he approached the leaders of the City of Athens, he staggered and gasped, “Rejoice! We Conquer!” and then collapsed.
The marathon distance was later changed as a result of the 1908 Olympic Games in London. That year, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandria wanted the marathon race to begin at Windsor Castle outside the city so that the Royal family could view the start. The distance between the castle and the Olympic Stadium in London proved to be 26 miles. Organizers added extra yards to the finish around a track, 385 to be exact, so the runners would finish in front of the king and queen’s royal box. For the 1912 Olympics, the length was changed to 40.2 kilometers (24.98 miles) and changed again to 42.75 kilometers (26.56 miles) for the 1920 Olympics. In fact, of the first seven Olympic Games, there were six different marathon distances between 40 and 42.75 kilometers. By 1924, the distance was standardized for all future Olympic marathons at 42 kilometers (26 miles, 385 yards).
On a Monday: The Patriots’ Day Race
From 1897-1968, the Boston Marathon was held on Patriots’ Day, April 19, a holiday commemorating the start of the Revolutionary War and recognized only in Massachusetts and Maine. The lone exception was when the 19th fell on Sunday. In those years, the race was held the following day (Monday the 20th). However, in 1969, the holiday was officially moved to the third Monday in April. Since 1969 the race has traditionally been held on the third Monday in April.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Boston Marathon was originally postponed from April to September and ultimately run as a Virtual Experience. The 2021 race will be the first in-person Boston Marathon not held in April it is scheduled for Monday, October 11, 2021.
Women Run to the Front
Roberta Gibb was the first woman to run the full Boston Marathon in 1966. Gibb, who did not run with an official race number during any of the three years (1966-68) that she was the first female finisher, hid in the bushes near the start until the race began. In 1967, Katherine Switzer did not clearly identify herself as a female on the race application and was issued a bib number. B.A.A. officials tried unsuccessfully to physically remove Switzer from the race once she was identified as a woman entrant. At the time of Switzer’s run, the Amateur Athletics Union (A.A.U.) had yet to formally accept participation of women in long distance running. When the A.A.U. permitted its sanctioned marathons (including Boston) to allow women entry in the fall of 1971, Nina Kuscsik’s 1972 B.A.A. victory the following spring made her the first official champion. Eight women started that race and all eight finished.
First to Sponsor the Wheelchair Division
The Boston Marathon became the first major marathon to include a wheelchair division competition when it officially recognized Bob Hall in 1975. With a time of two hours, 58 minutes, he collected on a promise by then Race Director Will Cloney that if he finished in less than three hours, he would receive an official B.A.A. Finisher’s Certificate. American wheelchair competitors Jean Driscoll and Jim Knaub helped to further establish and popularize the division.
Olympic Champions at Boston
Three-time defending women’s champion Fatuma Roba became the fourth person to win the Olympic Games Marathon and the B.A.A. Boston Marathon when she posted a 2:26:23 to win the 1997 Boston Marathon. Roba, who won the 1996 Olympic Marathon, joined fellow-women’s champions Joan Benoit, who won Boston in 1979 and 1983, before adding the 1984 Olympic Games title and Rosa Mota (POR), who won a trio of Boston crowns (1987, 1988, and 1990), while adding the 1988 Olympic title. Gelindo Bordin (ITA) is the only male to win the Olympic (1988) and Boston (1990) titles.
Tuesday, March 15, 1887: The Boston Athletic Association was established, and construction began soon after on the B.A.A. Clubhouse at the corner of Exeter and Blagden Streets.
Summer 1896: The marathon at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 served as the inspiration for the B.A.A. Boston Marathon. John Graham, coach and manager of the B.A.A. athletes, was a keen observer of the Marathon-to-Athens Race and returned to Boston with plans to institute a strikingly similar long-distance run the following spring.
Monday, April 19, 1897: The Boston Marathon was originally called the American Marathon and was the final event of the B.A.A. Games. The first running of the Boston Marathon commenced at the site of Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland and finished at the Irvington Street Oval near Copley Square. John J. McDermott, of New York, emerged from a 15-member starting field to capture the inaugural Boston Marathon.
Tuesday, April 19, 1898: In its second running, the Boston Marathon welcomed its first foreign champion when 22-year-old Boston College student Ronald J. MacDonald of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, won the race in 2:42:00. MacDonald’s accomplishment foreshadowed the international appeal the race would later attract. Today, 24 countries can claim a Boston Marathon Open Division (men’s and women’s) champion. The United States leads the list with 53 triumphs.
Thursday, April 19, 1900: Race winner John P. Caffery was followed across the line by runner-up Bill Sheering and third-place finisher Fred Hughson, providing Canada with a sweep of the top three places. To date, only five nations have swept the top three places Canada (1900), Korea (1950), Japan (1965 and 1966), Kenya (six times, including 2012 when it swept both the men’s and women’s races), and United States (35 times, which includes 29 times for men and six times for women). Kenya rounded out the list of nations in 1996 when that country’s men swept the top six spots. Also, Kenyan men placed first through fourth in 2002 first through fifth in 2003 and first through fourth in 2004. The United States, which has swept the top three spots on 31 occasions, leads all nations. At the inaugural Boston Marathon in 1897, all 10 finishers were from the United States.
Wednesday, April 19, 1911: The legendary Clarence H. DeMar of Melrose, Massachusetts, won his first of seven Boston Marathon titles. However, on the advice of medical experts, DeMar initially “retired” from the sport following his first title. He later won six titles between 1922 and 1930, including three consecutive titles from 1922 through 1924. DeMar was 41 years old when he won his final title in 1930.
Friday, April 19, 1918: Due to American involvement in World War I, the traditional Patriots’ Day race underwent a change of format but preserved its perennial nature. A 10-man military relay race was contested on the course, and the team from Camp Devens in Ayer, Massachusetts, bested the field in 2:24:53.
Saturday, April 19, 1924: The course was lengthened to 26 miles, 385 yards to conform to the Olympic standard, and the starting line was moved west from Ashland to Hopkinton.
Thursday, April 19, 1928: John A. “The Elder” Kelley made his Boston Marathon debut. Kelley, who won the race in 1935 and again in 1945, posted the record for most Boston Marathons started (61) and finished (58). His final race came in 1992 at the age of 84. Meanwhile, Clarence H. DeMar captured his second straight title. To date, only nine open division men’s champions have returned to successfully defend their titles. DeMar is the only one to have recorded consecutive triumphs on more than one occasion (1922–24 and 1927–28).
Monday, April 20, 1936: The last of Newton’s hills was given the nickname “Heartbreak Hill” by Boston Globe reporter Jerry Nason. When John A. Kelley caught eventual champion Ellison “Tarzan” Brown on the Newton hills, Kelley made a friendly gesture of tapping Brown on the shoulder. Brown responded by regaining the lead on the final hill, and as Nason reported, “breaking Kelley’s heart.”
Saturday, April 19, 1941: Leslie S. Pawson of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, joined Clarence H. DeMar as the only men to win the race three times or more. Pawson first won the race in 1933 and added a second title in 1938. The pair has since been joined by Gerard A. Cote, Bill Rodgers, Eino Oksanen, Ibrahim Hussein, Cosmas Ndeti, and Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot.
Saturday, April 19, 1947: For the first time in the history of the men’s open race, a world best was established at the Boston Marathon when Korean Yun Bok Suh turned in a 2:25:39 performance.
Monday, April 19, 1948: The Boston Marathon crowned its second four-time champion when Gerard A. Cote of Hyacinthe, Quebec, edged B.A.A. runner Ted Vogel. Cote’s first triumph came in 1940, and he added back-to-back wins in 1943 and 1944. To date, only DeMar, Cote, Bill Rodgers, and Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot have won the men’s open race four or more times.
Saturday, April 20, 1957: John J. Kelley became the first and currently lone B.A.A. club member to win the Boston Marathon. In addition, from 1946 to 1967, Kelley was the only American to win the race.
Tuesday, April 19, 1966: Although not an official entrant, Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. Joining the starting field shortly after the gun had been fired, Gibb finished the race in 3:21:40 to place 126th overall. Gibb again claimed the “unofficial” title in 1967 and 1968.
Wednesday, April 19, 1967: By signing her entry form “K. V. Switzer,” Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to receive a number in the Boston Marathon. By her own estimate, Switzer finished in 4:20:00.
Monday, April 21, 1969: The Boston Marathon has always been held on the holiday commemorating Patriots’ Day. Beginning in 1969, the holiday became officially recognized as the third Monday in April.
Monday, April 20, 1970: Qualifying standards were introduced. The official B.A.A. entry form stated, “A runner must submit the certification. that he has trained sufficiently to finish the course in less than four hours.”
Monday, April 17, 1972: Women were allowed to officially run the Boston Marathon, and Nina Kuscsik emerged from an eight-member field to win the race in 3:10:26.
Monday, April 21, 1975: A trio of stories emerged from this race, as Bill Rodgers collected his first of four titles, Bob Hall became the first officially recognized participant to complete the course in a wheelchair, and Liane Winter of West Germany established a women’s world best of 2:42:24. Hall was granted permission to enter the race provided that he covered the distance in under three hours. Hall finished in 2:58:00, signaling the start of the wheelchair division in the race.
Monday, April 19, 1982: Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley became the first two runners to break 2:09:00 in the same race after dueling one another for first place over the final nine miles. Salazar emerged victorious from the thrilling final sprint to the finish in 2:08:52, with Beardsley just two seconds behind.
Monday, April 18, 1983: Joan Benoit won her second Boston Marathon in a world best time of 2:22:43. Benoit, who won the inaugural women’s Olympic Marathon the following year, became the first person to win the Boston and Olympic Marathons.
Monday, April 15, 1985: Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach, who placed fourth at the 1984, 1988, and 1992 U.S. Olympic trials Marathon, handily won the women’s race in 2:34:06 and remains the most recent American women’s open division champion at Boston.
Monday, April 21, 1986: Through the generous support of principal sponsor John Hancock Financial Services, prize money was awarded for the first time, and Robert de Castella of Australia earned $60,000 and a Mercedes-Benz for finishing first in a course record time of 2:07:51. On the women’s side, Ingrid Kristiansen of Norway captured her first of two Boston Marathon titles in 2:24:55. She received $39,000 and a Mercedes-Benz. (Kristiansen won her second title in 1989.)
Monday, April 18, 1988: Kenya’s Ibrahim Hussein finished one second ahead of Tanzania’s Juma Ikangaa, and became the first African to win the Boston Marathon, or any other major marathon.
Monday, April 16, 1990: Jean Driscoll of Champaign, Illinois, won her first of seven consecutive wheelchair division races. John Campbell of New Zealand established a world masters best of 2:11:04, finishing fourth overall.
Monday, April 18, 1994: World best performances were established in the men’s and women’s wheelchair divisions, while course records fell in the men’s and women’s open divisions. For the fifth consecutive year, Jean Driscoll posted a world best to win the women’s wheelchair division, while Heinz Frei of Switzerland set the men’s world best to mark the 12th time the record had been established at Boston. Cosmas Ndeti of Kenya lowered the course record to 2:07:15, while Uta Pippig set the women’s standard at 2:21:45.
Monday, April 17, 1995: Cosmas Ndeti crossed the line first in 2:09:22 to join Bill Rodgers and Clarence H. DeMar as another champion to have won the race three consecutive years. Between 2006 and 2008, Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot would also win three straight crowns.
Monday, April 15, 1996: The historic 100th running of the Boston Marathon attracted 38,708 entrants (36,748 starters) and had 35,868 official finishers, which stood as the largest field of finishers in the history of the sport until 2004 (New York City: 37,257 starters 36,544 finishers). Uta Pippig overcame a 30-second deficit and severe dehydration, among other difficulties, to become the first woman of the official era to win the race three consecutive years.
Monday, April 21, 1997: Fatuma Roba of Ethiopia became the fourth person to win the Boston and Olympic Marathons, and the first African woman to win the Boston Marathon. Two years later, she would become the second woman of the official era to win the race three consecutive years.
Monday, April 17, 2000: After seven consecutive victories (1990–96) followed by three years as runner-up (1997–99), Jean Driscoll won an unprecedented eighth title in the wheelchair division, moving her past legendary Hall of Famer Clarence H. DeMar for most all-time victories at Boston. Catherine Ndereba became the first Kenyan woman to win the Boston Marathon Elijah Lagat, also of Kenya, was first to the finish in the men’s race, marking the 10th consecutive year a runner from his country won the title. Both the men’s and women’s races were the closest in history.
Monday, April 15, 2002: Two records were set in the women’s race when Margaret Okayo of Kenya dethroned two-time defending champion Catherine Ndereba in 2:20:43, and Russian Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova broke the 14-year-old masters record with her 2:27:58 victory.
Monday, April 21, 2003: The Boston Marathon qualifying times were adjusted for the first time since 1990, and the maximum field size was set at 20,000 official entrants.
Monday, April 19, 2004: To better showcase the women’s elite field, the B.A.A. implemented a separate start for the top female runners. In a dramatic change to race format, 35 national- and international-caliber women began at 11:31 a.m. (29 minutes before the rest of the field and the traditional noon start). Also, Ernst Van Dyk, of South Africa, made history in the push rim wheelchair division when he won for the fourth consecutive year in a world record time of 1:18:27, and he became the first person to ever crack the 1:20:00 barrier.
Monday, April 18, 2005: Catherine Ndereba became the first four-time winner of the women’s open division. Ernst Van Dyk added to his record for consecutive wins in the men’s push rim wheelchair division, capturing his fifth straight title. In Tallil, Iraq, 41 U.S. servicemen and women completed the first-ever Boston Marathon in Iraq that same day.
Monday, April 17, 2006: In one of the most significant changes in Boston Marathon history, the field was divided into two starting waves, with 10,000 runners beginning at the traditional noon starting time, and the remainder of the runners starting at 12:30 p.m. In addition to the two-wave start, the Marathon for the first time scored the event by net (chip) time. Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot beat Cosmas Ndeti’s 12-year-old course record by one second, while Rita Jeptoo, Jelena Prokopcuka, and Reiko Tosa provided the women’s division’s closest-ever 1-2-3 finish.
Monday, April 16, 2007: For the second year in a row the start of the race underwent a major change, this time with the start time being rolled back to 10:00 a.m. The push rim wheelchair race featured the first two Japanese champions in the history of that division, with Masazumi Soejima and Wakako Tsuchida winning the men’s and women’s titles, respectively.
Monday, April 21, 2008: Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot won his fourth total, and third consecutive, Boston title, joining Clarence H. DeMar, Gerard Cote, and Bill Rodgers as the only men to have won the race at least four times.
Monday, April 19, 2010: Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot from Kenya established a new men’s course record by 82 seconds with a time of 2:05:52. In the men’s push rim wheelchair division, Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa won in 1:26:53 and became the most successful Boston Marathon competitor of all time, with his ninth title. The race marked 25 years of partnership between principal sponsor John Hancock and the B.A.A. The official charity program surpassed the $100 million mark in 2010.
Monday, April 18, 2011: Geoffrey Mutai from Kenya set a new course record, as well as a new world’s best time of 2:03:02. The top four men all finished under the old course record. Caroline Kilel of Kenya just outlasted Desiree Davila of the United States to win in 2:22:36. The push rim wheelchair division had an emotional element all its own, with both men’s and women’s victories going to Japan - this just after the earthquake that had struck that country. Masazumi Soejima finished ahead of Kurt Fearnley and Ernst Van Dyk in a winning time of 1:18:50. Once again, records were set for female entrants (11,462) and finishers (10,074).
Monday, April 16, 2012: Weather conditions reached almost 90 degrees along the course. The heat did not affect Canada’s Josh Cassidy, who pulled away early to win the push rim wheelchair division in 1:18:25, breaking Ernst Van Dyk’s course record by two seconds. Due to the warm-weather forecast, anyone who decided to pick up a bib but chose not to run the race was given automatic deferment to the 2013 Boston Marathon. After timing adjudication post-race, 2,160 runners became eligible for this offer. The 500,000th finisher in the 116-year history of the Boston Marathon crossed the finish line.
Monday, April 21, 2014: In a triumphant victory, American Mebrahtom (Meb) Keflezighi crossed the finish first on Boylston Street in a personal best of 2:08:37. Keflezighi was spurred on by the memories of those impacted by the tragic events at the 2013 Boston Marathon, becoming the first American man to win the open race since Greg Meyer in 1983. Rita Jeptoo of Kenya ran a course record of 2:18:57 to claim her second consecutive (and third overall) Boston Marathon win. In the men’s push rim wheelchair division, Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa won his 10th Boston Marathon title, while Tatyana McFadden of the United States retained the women’s crown.
Monday, April 18, 2016: Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb’s 1966 run to become the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon, officials announced that the era between 1966 and 1971 would no longer be known as the “Unofficial Era.” Rather, this time period would be known as the “Pioneer Era” going forward. As a symbol of appreciation and thanks for her role in the women’s running movement, women’s winner Atsede Baysa gifted her Champion’s Trophy to Gibb. Gibb served as the 2016 Boston Marathon Grand Marshal.
Monday, April 16, 2018: Prevailing in some of the worst weather conditions in race history were American Desiree Linden and Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi. Driving rain and very strong winds made it tough for all participants, yet did not stop Linden from becoming the first U.S. woman in 33 years to win the open division. Kawauchi was the first Japanese men’s champion since 1987. In recognition of the B.A.A.’s Year of Service, a Military Relay team of 16 servicemen and women passed a baton from Hopkinton to Boston in honor of the centennial anniversary of the 1918 Boston Marathon Military Relay.
September 5-14, 2020: For the first time, the Boston Marathon was not held on its traditional April date. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Patriots’ Day race was postponed to September and ultimately converted into a Virtual Experience. Participants brought the spirit of the Boston Marathon to neighborhoods around the world, covering 26.2 miles virtually in their neighborhoods. A total of 16,183 finishers from all 50 U.S. states and nearly 90 countries completed the Boston Marathon Virtual Experience, earning the coveted unicorn finisher medal.
|YEAR||HOPKINTON TEMP*||BOSTON TEMP**||WIND||SKY|
|2000||50||47||N/NE 7–12 mph||Cloudy|
|2001||53||54||N/NE 1–5 mph||Partly Cloudy|
|2002||53||56||N/NE 1–5 mph||Mostly Cloudy|
|2003||70||59||Variable 3–8 mph||Clear|
|2004||83||86||WSW/SW/W 8–11 mph|
|2005||70||66||E/NE 5–8 mph||Clear|
|2007||47||50||E/ESE 20–30 mph||Overcast and Rain|
|2008||53||53||W 2 mph||Clear|
|2009||51||47||E/SE 9–16 mph||Partly Cloudy|
|2010||49||55||E/NE 2–5 mph||Partly Cloudy|
|2011||46||55||W/SW 16–20 mph||Clear|
|2012||65||87||W/SW 10–20 mph||Clear|
|2014||61||62||WSW 2–3 mph||Clear|
|2015||46||46||Calm||Overcast and Rain|
|2016||71||61||WSW 2-3 mph||Clear|
|2018||42||46||ENE 2-5 mph||Heavy Rain|
|2019||58||61||WNW 1-2 mph||Overcast, Partly Rain|
*Based on start of Wave One
**Based on winner of men's race
Joan Benoit at the 1st Women's Olympic Marathon
1984 was the year of the first women's Olympic marathon and Joan (age 27) was not favored at all to win.
Grete Waitz from Norway had won every marathon that she had entered and come in first in nearly all the races she had run against Joan. Not only that but Joan had just undergone knee surgery 17 days before the Olympic Marathon.
Joan's mental tenacity and physical strength and stamina shone through as she broke away from Waitz very early on in the race and held her ground all the way into the Los Angeles Coliseum.
The unsuspecting crowd roared as she made her way to the finish line and gold medal with a time of 2:24:52.
In September after her amazing Olympic win, Joan married her Scott Samuelson who had gone to college at Bowdoin as well.
Now the forefront women's runner, Joan Benoit entered the Chicago Marathon in 1985ਊnd smashed the women's marathon world record yet again with a time of 2:21:21, an American record she held until 2003.
In 1987 while being 3 months pregnant with her daughter Abigail she ran the Boston marathon finishing in 9th place. The 1988 women's Olympic marathon came and went without Joan as she was focusing on parenting and making family her first priority.
That has been one of her greatest achievements: her ability to maintain a balance of family and running.
With Joan there is no compromising, no cutting something short for another but giving her best in everything.
She returned to the Boston Marathon in 1989 and 1991 coming in 9th and 4rth place respectively. After being diagnosed with asthma in 1991 she was held back from the 1992 Olympic marathon. She then had her second child, a son, Andre.
In 1994, at age 37, Joan won the Chicago marathon yet again with a time of 2:37:09, giving her a qualifying time for the Olympic marathon trials. The trials were held in 1996, seeing Joan with 13th place and a time of 2:36:54.
One this day in history, Joan Benoit Samuelson won the first women’s Olympic marathon
As the Olympic Games are now very nearly upon us, we continue to look back on fond moments in Olympic history.
This day 32 years ago, the first ever Olympic women’s marathon went ahead. It was 1984 in Los Angeles and women lined up to run the 42.2K distance for the first time at the Games.
Joan Benoit Samuelson was the first into the stadium as she powered towards the finish line to win gold. It was five years after she burst into the running scene and while women running the marathon was new to the Olympics, major races were well ahead of the Games with this matter. The Boston Marathon, for example, just celebrated 50 years of female participation this year putting them about two decades ahead of the Olympics when it comes to permitting women to run marathons.
Running in the Olympics, Benoit Samuelson already had major running accomplishments associated with her name. In 1979, she entered the Boston Marathon as a fairly unknown runner and won. The year before the Olympics let women run the marathon for the first time, she won her second gold from Boston.
At the 1984, Games, it wasn’t a surprise to many who followed the women’s running scene that she took the gold medal. She made it to the finish in 2:31:04. The year after she set what became then then American women’s record when she ran 2:21:21 in Chicago.
At this year’s Olympics, Canadian fans will be watching two women race the marathon. Krista DuChene and Lanni Marchant will take on the distance to represent Canada.
When Joan Benoit Samuelson Runs, We Have Countless Reasons to Cheer (But Here Are 3 of Them)
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Photo: Courtesy of Boston Athletic Association Joan Benoit Samuelson wins the 1979 Boston Marathon.
She’s known simply as Joanie. That’s what happens when you’re a legend. You only need a first name.
The Boston Athletic Association announced on Friday that Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won the 1984 gold medal in the first-ever women’s Olympic marathon, is running the 2019 Boston Marathon, marking the 40th anniversary of her first victory at the historic race.
“My goal is to run within 40 minutes of my time 40 years ago, which would be sub-3:15:35,” she said, in a written statement. “I might as well celebrate during an anniversary year, while I’m still able!”
In 1979, Benoit Samuelson, a Maine native, was just a 21-year-old senior in college. She crossed the finish line on Boylston Street in 2:35:15 wearing a Bowdoin singlet—and ever the gritty New Englander, a Boston Red Sox hat.
Back then she didn’t have a clear concept of the magnitude of the win—or any inclination she’d go on to win it again in 1983 in 2:22:43 (then a world record). Though she had an appreciation for the prestige of the race, she hadn’t even studied the course.
“I got to the top of the Heartbreak Hills and I just passed the pre-race favorite, Patti Catalano, and I looked at the runner next to me and I said, ‘So where are these so-called Heartbreak Hills?’” Benoit Samuelson said, during a 2013 interview with WMUR. “He looked at me like I was crazy or something and said, ‘You just passed those hills.’”
During Women’s History Month, the announcement on Friday stirs something special while reflecting not only Benoit Samuelson’s success, but also her dedication to uplifting the sport for all women through every phase of her career. Here are just three reasons why we send our gratitude to Joanie—and why we’ll be cheering her on once again on April 15 in Boston.
She’s a barrier breaker.
When Title IX was passed in 1972, Samuelson was a sophomore in high school. Although opportunities started opening up for girls and women in sport, equality in running wasn’t realized until much later. She came of age in the era when the distances women were allowed to compete in were restricted, when it was thought that female runners would do lasting bodily damage—specifically to their reproductive system—if they raced longer than a mile.
Twelve years later, when Benoit Samuelson ran through the tunnel into the Los Angeles Olympic Stadium to claim the first gold medal in the marathon for women, it was an empowering image for women around everywhere—and a message that strength and endurance were not exclusive to men. She showed the world that when granted equal opportunities, women defeat all perceived limitations. It helped to trigger a new kind of running boom—one in which women of all abilities realized they, too, could run farther than ever before.
And to further prove the point, Benoit Samuelson went on to train right through her two pregnancies—even logging six miles the day her son was born in 1990.
She compels us to keep going.
Benoit Samuelson is the only woman to break three hours in the marathon in five decades:
1. 1979 Boston Marathon: 2:35:16
2. 1985 Chicago Marathon: 2:21:21
3. 1991 Boston Marathon: 2:26:54
4. 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials: 2:39:59
5. 2010 Chicago Marathon: 2:47:50
She won the 50–59 age group division in Boston in 2011, 2013, and 2014, setting a Veteran’s Division record in 2013 in 2:50:29.
Although she fell short of a well-publicized goal to become the first woman in her 60s to break three hours at the 2017 Chicago Marathon (she withdrew with an injury), she keeps going, inspiring all of us to find new milestones to shoot for no matter our age or circumstances.
She came back to Chicago in 2018, this time hoping to set a 60–64 age-group record faster than 3:01:30, but ended up running 3:12:13. Nonetheless, she was overcome with emotion when she saw her daughter, Abby Samuelson, at the finish line—the first time she had arrived there before her mother.
Throwback Thursday #9
By Jonathan Gault
June 4, 2020
Welcome back to Throwback Thursday. With no live sports during the coronavirus quarantine, I&rsquom plumbing the depths of YouTube and watching/sharing my thoughts about one classic race per week. If you missed any of the first eight installments, click here.
This week, I&rsquom rewatching the 1984 women&rsquos Olympic marathon, won by American Joan Benoit Samuelson (then known as simply Joan Benoit she would marry Scott Samuelson a month later). The race is famous because it was the first time women had ever run the marathon at the Olympic Games. But it was legendary because of Benoit&rsquos incredible performance and the ridiculously talented field she beat on that day in Los Angeles.
Favorites often crumble in the heat of the Olympic marathon, but not in 1984. The top four finishers &mdash Benoit, Norway&rsquos Grete Waitz, Portugal&rsquos Rosa Mota, and Norway&rsquos Ingrid Kristiansen are all among the greatest women&rsquos marathoners in history. Their career accomplishments:
Benoit: WR holder, 2-time Boston champ, &rsquo84 Olympic champ, &rsquo85 Chicago champ
Waitz: WR holder, 9-time NYC champ, 2-time London champ, &rsquo83 world marathon champ
Kristiansen: WR holder (5,000, 10,000 & marathon), &rsquo87 world 10k champ, &rsquo88 World XC champ, 4-time London champ, 2-time Boston champ, &rsquo86 Chicago champ, &rsquo89 NYC champ
Mota: 3-time Boston champ, 2-time Chicago champ, &rsquo87 world marathon champ, &rsquo88 Olympic champ, &rsquo91 London champ
What made the race even more special was that these women didn&rsquot often race against each other (which in part explains why each of them piled up so many wins the talent pool was smaller back then, which allowed the very best athletes to hog all the victories). The &rsquo84 Olympics was the first time Benoit raced Waitz, Kristiansen, or Mota in a marathon. Waitz, in fact, had never lost a marathon before this race. So the fact that all four of these women were in this race battling it out for the medals over the final miles was pretty incredible.
I wasn&rsquot able to find a full race video, so I had to draw on a few sources for the screenshots, linked below. Now let&rsquos get to it. We&rsquore headed back to Los Angeles, Calif., on August 5, 1984&hellip
It&rsquos always a little odd to see the start of an Olympic marathon. That&rsquos the entire field, right there, 50 athletes. This isn&rsquot a wave start. There are no plodding masses still to come.
Interesting to see them start in the stadium. That practice has fallen out of favor in recent years &mdash an Olympic marathon hasn&rsquot started in the stadium since 1996.
Wait, what the hell? That&rsquos not the LA Coliseum!
Al Michaels (yes, that Al Michaels) on the call tells us there are track events going on in the Coliseum this morning, so they&rsquore starting the race at Santa Monica College and finishing at the Coliseum.
That still doesn&rsquot explain why the race is starting on a track. A track is actually the worst place you can start a marathon, because you&rsquore forcing a bunch of people to run extra distance.
Chile&rsquos Monica Regonesi sports a bib with the number 072. I can&rsquot ever recall seeing an Olympic bib start with the number zero. Seems redundant, no?
You may recognize that bunting from every single high school invitational of the last 40 years.
A home Olympics means every commercial is Olympic-themed, from a home-made pole vault to McDonald&rsquos disastrous Olympic promotion. In case you&rsquore not familiar, here&rsquos what happened: McDonald&rsquos ran a promotion where it handed out scratch cards with every purchase. If the US won a medal in that event, you could trade it in for free food.
The problem? The Soviet Union led an Eastern Bloc boycott of the &rsquo84 Games, paving the way for a US gold rush. The US won 174 medals, including a record 83 golds, which led to a lot of free Big Macs. (The Simpsons spoofed this brilliantly, by the way)
Belgium&rsquos Marie-Christine Deurbroeck has opened up a slight gap on the field just over 2k into the race. Michaels tells us that she ran the first mile in 6:27, which seems shockingly slow, and he&rsquos immediately corrected by Marty Liquori, who says it was in fact run in 5:25 &mdash 2:21:55 pace at a time when the world record was Benoit&rsquos 2:22:43.
The Belgian is faltering already a little bit. She&rsquos considerably heavier than the other marathoners.
Am I an asshole for saying that?
If you answered yes, I have a surprise for you. Those aren&rsquot my words, but the words of legendary women&rsquos running pioneer Kathrine Switzer, who just uttered them on the broadcast.
The broadcast cuts to a pre-recorded interview with Julie Brown, who is running in the lead pack right now. Brown says she qualified for the 1980 US Olympic team in the 800 and 1500.
Yes, Brown ran 2:00.96 and 4:07.13 to finish 2nd in each race at the 1980 US Olympic Trials (though the US would not send a team to Moscow). Four years later, she owned a 2:26 personal best and was running the Olympic marathon.
That&rsquos the equivalent of Ajee&rsquo Wilson deciding to take up the marathon after the &rsquo16 Trials and making this year&rsquos team. It&rsquos astonishing.
The fact is, Brown had no choice but to run the 800 and 1500: until 1984, 1500m was the longest distance offered for women at the Olympics. Had Brown, the 1975 World XC champ and former 10,000m world record holder, been able to compete in longer distances in her prime, she would have had a great shot at a medal.
Just after two miles, Deurbroeck has been caught (she&rsquod end up 24th in 2:38:01), and now it&rsquos the Americans Benoit, Brown, and Julie Isphording (left to right) leading the race.
The silver US uniform has become iconic because it&rsquos what Benoit wore when she won Olympic gold. But that doesn&rsquot excuse the fact that it&rsquos a horrible choice for a jersey. First, silver is not a color you want to wear at the Olympics. You&rsquore automatically associating yourself with second-best. Plus, silver isn&rsquot even one of the USA&rsquos colors.
Thankfully, only the marathoners wore silver. The rest of the track & field athletes rocked the far superior red version of this jersey. I imagine the marathoners wore a different color as a darker color would attract more heat.
Unfortunately, I couldn&rsquot find the full race anywhere, which means we&rsquove skipped ahead to the 20-mile mark. To recap quickly: at three miles &mdash just after we left off above &mdash Benoit surged and no one responded. Since then, she&rsquos been on her own and has opened a lead of 1:40 on the rest of the field. Now she&rsquos 10k away from glory but it would have been a lot of fun to see the commentary of the whole race.
Grete Waitz (289) and Ingrid Kristiansen (286) are the closest women to Benoit at the moment, with Rosa Mota giving chase in 4th. But unless one of them steps on the gas now, they have no chance at catching the indomitable Benoit.
Another commercial break. Hey, it&rsquos Hoover from Animal House! President of Delta House! 1.6 GPA, four C&rsquos and an F. He set a fine example.
After sitting through several commercial breaks, one thing has become clear: there was a lot of singing in commercials in the &rsquo80s. Half the ads end in some sort of sung slogan.
We&rsquove got what it takes, Truuuue Value!
Carquest, the right place to buy auto parts!
Sorry, last commercial. I had to include it, because I&rsquom pretty sure James Cameron got the plot for Titanic from this Love Boat commercial.
&ldquoThey come to her as strangers. Some are young. Some are starting over. And through the magic that she alone possesses, somehow, she brings them together. And out of strangers, she makes lovers. The Love Boat.&rdquo
We&rsquore in mile 22 now, and Waitz has dropped Kristiansen. She&rsquos slowly making up ground on Benoit, but not quickly enough: the gap is still 1:34 with less than five miles to go.
As Benoit cools herself off, Michaels mentions how she won the US Olympic Trials just 17 days after undergoing knee surgery. Which I already knew but bears repeating because it&rsquos insane.
Liquori adds that many thought the American women would be at a disadvantage at the Olympics because the Trials were held just 12 weeks before the Games. That&rsquos a tight turnaround, but back then it was not uncommon. When Frank Shorter won gold in 1972, the marathon trials were held on July 9 as part of the track trials the Olympic marathon was just nine weeks later.
Obviously Benoit ran incredibly in 1984, but the other Americans fared poorly &mdash Brown was 36th out of 44 finishers and Isphording DNF&rsquod. The quick turnaround may have had something to do with it.
Los Angeles. Slow-moving vehicles. Helicopter shots. Sorry, but this whole race has been giving me flashbacks to O.J. Simpson and the white Bronco.
I know this isn&rsquot whiskey. But the shape of this bottle really makes it look like Grete Waitz is drinking whiskey during the Olympic marathon.
The temperature was far from ideal for a marathon, and two hours into the race, the athletes are starting to feel it. Volunteers have been handing out yellow sponges, and rather than squeeze and discard, Waitz decides to stick hers under her jersey just below her neck.
(Editor&rsquos note: What&rsquos interesting to us now 35+ years later is we&rsquore wondering how hot was it really during the race. The NY Times recap said that the temperature &ldquoranged from the high 60&rsquos to near 90 degrees with high humidity&rdquo but the stats don&rsquot back that up. Here are the temperatures as reported by Dark Sky for various cities in LA that the course ran through on August 5, 1984 (race started at 8 am)
|Santa Monica||Venice||Culver City||LA|
Maybe those NY Times temps were the temps in the sun? If you know, please post on our messageboard: How hot was it really during the 1984 Olympic women&rsquos marathon?)
Benoit continues to grind away up front. She is slowing slightly, but Waitz is not moving fast enough for it to make a difference. Aside from the moment where she doffed her cap to dump water on it, the clips of Benoit may as well be running on a loop, a look of steely determination and focus plastered to her face. Michaels puts it perfectly: &ldquoShe is just absolutely machine-like.&rdquo
Mota passes Kristiansen for third. This is the only medal battle that&rsquos remotely close right now, as Benoit and Waitz seem locked into gold and silver.
This is what&rsquos waiting for Benoit at the finish in the LA Coliseum. Proof that yes, tens of thousands of people will come to watch a track meet in the USA, as long as it&rsquos the Olympics.
Switzer mentions that this race has been relatively unaffected by the boycott, since there aren&rsquot many great Eastern bloc marathoners. Switzer, one of the women&rsquos marathon activists who made this race possible, also mentions that the Soviet Union was the only country which opposed the addition of the women&rsquos marathon to the Olympic program.
We&rsquove jumped ahead again in the broadcast. Benoit is headed through the tunnel now onto the track, and once she emerges into the daylight of the LA Coliseum, the crowd erupts in a sustained roar.
These moments, right here, is what I miss about the old Olympic marathon, which hasn&rsquot finished in the Olympic stadium since 2008. The contrast between those last few moments of darkness in the tunnel and that explosion of noise and emotion once the leader emerges onto the track is something that cannot be replicated outside of the stadium setting (though finishing the 2016 Olympic marathon at the Sambadrome in Rio was pretty cool).
Waitz enters the stadium just as Benoit is finishing up, but there&rsquos no doubt about the winner on this day. It&rsquos Joanie.
Obviously Benoit&rsquos win is historic because this was the first women&rsquos Olympic marathon. And it remains historic because it&rsquos the last time an American woman won a distance event at the Olympics. But because of that, it can be forgotten just how impressive her run was. At the time, it was probably greatest performance in women&rsquos marathoning history.
Consider: at the time, the world record belonged to Benoit at 2:22:43 from the 1983 Boston Marathon (you could set the WR at Boston back then). Kristiansen&rsquos 2:24:26 at 1984 London was #2 on the all-time list. This race, in which Benoit ran 2:24:52, was #3.
So in the heat of LA, Benoit ran the third-fastest time ever to defeat the greatest field ever assembled (at the time), and she did it by breaking away three miles into the race and winning by 1:26. And she did it in the Olympics. For everyone obsessed with Sammy Wanjiru&lsquos 2:06 win at the 2008 Olympics, Joanie did the same thing on the women&rsquos side 24 years earlier (2:24:52 would stand as the Olympic record for 16 years).
Benoit&rsquos victory lap wasn&rsquot much slower than her race pace. She doesn&rsquot look that tired.
Waitz earns the silver in 2:26:18, with Mota taking bronze in 2:26:57 &mdash very strong performances (and a big PR for Mota, who had never before broken 2:30), but not enough to overcome the otherworldly Benoit. What a race.
I generally try to keep it light with these TBTs, so I&rsquom going to end this one here rather than try to break down Switzerland&rsquos Gabriela Andersen-Schiess and her struggle to finish while battling the effects of heat exhaustion. Viewed one way, it&rsquos inspirational. But it&rsquos also difficult to watch someone so clearly struggling. If you want to learn more about it, check out this video.
That&rsquos it for this week. Check back next Thursday for the next installment.
By Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
This article is a part of Studio/B’s Aging Strong series, exploring how individuals, from athletes to entrepreneurs, have navigated the challenges of aging—and the habits that can help others age strong too.
“I don’t like it when somebody passes me. I mean, I guess I’m still a competitor … I was passed on a bicycle the other day and I didn’t even like that—and cycling isn’t even my sport, but I still take it seriously,” says Joan Benoit Samuelson.Evan Richman/Globe Staff Samuelson greets fans after the U.S. Olympic Trials Women’s Marathon in Boston, April 20th, 2008
At age 63, Samuelson continues to embody the competitive spirit of an athlete. Her list of accolades as an elite marathoner—including six marathon wins, one of which brought her a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics—is extensive, yet she wonders if her proudest running achievement may not have happened yet. “I would like to say it is yet to come because I’m so much of a storyteller. If I could run a fast marathon in my sixth decade, that would be really cool,” she says.
Having already run sub-3-hour marathons in five different decades (the only woman to do so), Samuelson’s intense drive to achieve the same in a sixth decade underlies her quiet demeanor. Her grit, determination and, of course, competitive spirit keep her going, though she attributes her successful career to what she refers to as the four Ps—passion, patience, perseverance, and persistence.
These attributes were developed during her upbringing and experiences growing up in Maine. The coastal town of Cape Elizabeth was home to Samuelson, along with an island off the coast of Maine, where the family would spend a few weeks each summer. In her autobiography, “Running Tide,” Samuelson says that her time there during childhood helped shape her. “The island, the mountains, the little school I attended, and, especially, my family—these were my nurturers. Within my early experiences were the lessons I needed to prepare me for life as an athlete,” she wrote.george rizer Samuelson opens up a fifty-yard lead in the first mile of the Bonnie Bell race, October 10th, 1983
The mountains she mentions were the site of her first brush with athletics. Skiing was a family activity, as her father had served in the Tenth Mountain Division during World War II. Prior to becoming a runner, Samuelson was a skier with dreams of making a career out of it—which included competing in the Olympics. It was after a ski injury in high school though that Samuelson switched gears to running, using it as a way to rehab an injured leg.
She remembers first being interested in running for its affordability and accessibility, but especially liked not needing to go to the mountains with expensive equipment to participate. “I could just run outside our front door and run to my heart’s content,” she says. Running brought Samuelson strength, happiness, and self-esteem, but only after it brought initial embarrassment. She used to pause on her run if cars passed by, hoping to hide her tomboy image by pretending instead to look at flowers. Eventually, she realized that she enjoyed running far too much to care what others thought.Samuelson at a 1997 Boston Marathon press conference
At the time, competing as a female runner in what was considered a men’s sport had its challenges, but Samuelson was never one to run from a challenge (both literally and figuratively). She broke boundaries—and records—throughout her career while remaining focused on herself as an individual runner, only paying attention to other runners to help with her own skills. As a senior in high school that meant practicing with the boys’ track team for more competition.“Each runner dictates their own course of action among a larger population all seeking the same goal. It is such an individual, but collective event,” she says. In her book, she even stated that the 1979 Boston Marathon was a “private test, Joan running for Joan’s sake.” She won the marathon that year, which was to be followed by five additional marathon wins in the ‘80s.
Even today, Joan compares herself to the fastest runners at events—both women and men. And not only that, but she looks at the best runners overall, regardless of age, even those just graduating college. Running in her sixties is much like it was in her teens, still a daily part of life. Her recoveries may take longer as she’s gotten older, but age (and wisdom) has evolved the way Samuelson trains.frank o'brien Samuelson standing with MC Curt Gowdy at Quincy Market, September 12th, 1984
Health and wellness are the heart of her training philosophy. Cross-training with other sports like cross-country skiing, cycling, and swimming is part of her physical routine, but mental wellness is just as important. Samuelson appreciates finding balance in life through meditation and other activities like gardening and spending time with her family. Despite all her success, Samuelson admits she is still trying to master one critical mental health piece: relaxing. “I don’t relax well, and I think that’s something I need to learn how to do,” she admits.
Samuelson finds time with her family and community are often just what the doctor ordered. She has run marathons with both her children—special memories that she cherishes. Samuelson has also found ways to remain active in the New England community, including founding the TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race in 1988 (a race in her hometown that attracts elite runners each year).
It’s likely her physical and mental training philosophy will continue to evolve, as opportunities and challenges that come with age are ones to embrace. “Some years will be better than others, and others will be more challenging, but unless we embrace where we are at that moment in time, then I think we’re just cheating ourselves,” she says. For her part, she’s doing her best to slow down—just a little.