Joan Benoit Samuelson Keeps Boston Marathon Promise


Last Updated on August 7, 2021

40 years after winning the Boston Marathon, Joan Benoit Samuelson has fulfilled a comeback promise — and she did it with an incredible time.

Samuelson finished the 2019 marathon with a time of 3 hours and 4 minutes, within 40 minutes of her winning time in 1979 (which was her goal!). Now 61, Samuelson showed up to the race in the same outfit she wore 40 years before — a Bowdoin College singlet, a backwards hat, and a giant smile.

As she crossed the 2019 finished line, she used that hat and smile to salute and thank the crowd.

After the race, Samuelson and her daughter spoke with the media, and they both credited the cheering spectators for not allowing them to quit.

The course knowledge proved to be helpful, as Samuelson experienced pain in her calf just before her final push. She said that she forced herself to be patient, because she knew that she’d need that energy going into the final miles (and famous hills!).

And she celebrated those who finished before and after her:

“I think everybody who ran today and everybody on the sidelines has a story to tell. An inspiring story to tell. I think anybody is capable of storytelling, and everybody running today had a story of inspiration to share.”

She also thanked her 98-year-old mother — her inspiration — for supporting her through the years. Bad weather prevented Samuelson’s mother from coming to the race in person, but she watched live coverage on television.

After the race, Samuelson also spoke with Runner’s World about her race:

In 1979, Samuelson smashed the women’s course record and American women’s marathon record, in a time of 2:35:15. Relatively unknown at the time, Samuelson went on to become one of America’s most beloved runners and athletes. She went on to win Chicago, win Boston again in 1983 and became the first women’s Olympic marathon winner at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

Joan Benoit of the United States raises her arms in celebration after winning the Women’s marathon event at the XXIII Olympic Summer Games on 5 August 1984 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Tony Duffy/Allsport/Getty Images)
28 Jul-12 Aug 1984: Joan Benoit of the USA acknowledges the crowd after winning the Gold Medal in the Marathon event at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, USA. Mandatory Credit: Tony Duffy/Allsport

In recent years, Samuelson has continued to support women’s running, particularly the marathon distance. She’s retired from most high level races but does continue to run in Boston and Chicago.

HOUSTON, TX – JANUARY 14: (L-R) Desiree Davila, Shalane Flanagan, Joan Benoit Samuelson and Kara Goucher pose on the winners stage during the U.S. Marathon Olympic Trials on January 14, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Samuelson’s 2019 race put her first in her age group and 249th among all women (with 30,000 runners in the field overall).