Joan Benoit Samuelson Sets Her Sights On New Record In Chicago

Joan Benoit Samuelson will attempt to become the first woman in her 60s to run a marathon in under three hours at this year’s Chicago Marathon.

Joan Benoit Samuelson To Race 2018 Chicago Marathon

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the 1985 Chicago Marathon champion and one of the most revered American women distance runners in history, is set to compete in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday.

True to her unflagging competitive spirit, the 61-year-old will attempt to become the world’s first woman in her 60s to run a marathon in under three hours.

Samuelson planned last year to chase the record in Chicago, but a knee injury forced her to withdraw. She announced her decision to run this year’s marathon just a week before the race.

“Marathoning is more than ever a metaphor for life,” she told Women’s Running in a text message, adding that she is looking forward to sharing the experience with her daughter, Abby, and niece, Margaret, who are also running the race.

Race director Carey Pinkowski says he’s elated to welcome back the legendary champion, who set an American marathon record when she won the event in 1985, a mark that stood for 18 years. “I have no doubt she will attack this new goal with the determination she’s known for, and she will surely inspire and motivate so many with her endless drive,” Pinkowski says.

Bernie Portenski of New Zealand, who died last year at 67, set the current world record of 3:01:30 for the women’s 60 to 64 age group in 2010.

In a sport known to be brutal on the mind and body, Samuelson has displayed remarkable resilience since her inspiring gold medal performance at the 1984 Olympics in the inaugural women’s marathon. Her phenomenal professional running career has spanned nearly four decades and includes marathon victories in Chicago, New York City and Boston.

Despite injuries and the inevitable march of time, Samuelson continues to redefine what athletes can achieve as they age. At the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, Samuelson, then 50, was the oldest competitor, finishing in an impressive 2:49:08.  Finish line of her career? Nope.

She ran even faster two years later at the 2010 the Chicago Marathon, where she crossed the finish line in 2:47:50, setting a new 50 to 54 age group record for women. She also holds the 55 to 59 age-group record, which she ran at the Boston Marathon in 2013.

When it comes to training in her 60s after decades of hard running, Samuelson says she keeps it simple. “I do what I can reasonably do,” she told Outside Magazine in a 2017 interview.  “I don’t have any rhyme or reason to my training, except to run the way I feel on that particular day. If I feel good, I run hard; if I don’t, I run easy.”

In addition to all of her athletic accomplishments, Samuelson has two grown children, serves as a mentor to younger elite runners and advocates for the environment in her home state of Maine. In 1998, she founded a 10K road race in Maine to benefit children’s charities, a race now known as the TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race. Every August, it draws an estimated 6,500 competitors and some of the world’s best distance runners.

Samuelson will be attempting her new age-group record in Chicago on Sunday, Oct. 7. For details on how to tune in on race day, follow this link, and check out’s analysis of the course here.


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