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On Monday, Joan Benoit Samuelson returned to the start line in Hopkinton to celebrate the 40th anniversary of her 1979 Boston Marathon win. Her goal? To finish within 40 minutes of her winning time in 1979, which was 2:35.35.
“I motivate myself by storytelling, so this seemed like the logical one,” Benoit Samuelson said. “It’s all about the story, and it has been since that date 40 years ago.”
Wearing bib 1979 along with a Bowdoin College singlet (like she had as a then-unknown college student) to commemorate the occasion, Benoit Samuelson finished in 3:04.00, beating her goal by 11 minutes and easily winning her age group. She placed 3,103rd overall, and 201st among all women.
“I feel blessed,” she said, following the race. “I don’t feel like it’s 40 years since my first Boston.”
At 61 years old, she credits cross training for her strong performance today. “I think as people age, cross training can be a huge benefit,” she said. “I usually run faster in the spring, and I credit Nordic skiing—the upper-body work and strength that I get from that. (I’m not very efficient as a nordic skier so I have to work really hard.)”
“I have more kilometers on these legs this winter than I do miles, meaning I’ve done more cross-country skiing than actual running to save the pounding on the roads.”
So what’s the next story to be told for this inspiring legend?
“That remains to be seen,” said Benoit Samuelson, adding that she would love to complete the Abbott Six Stars (which would require her to run Tokyo, London, and Berlin marathon). “And our 35th wedding anniversary coincides with the Berlin Marathon,” she said with a smile.