Man, I wish I was still in this good of a shape…. I do pilates and yoga, but was never a runner. I can sprint pretty fast, but distance running just never was a good thing for me. Run, Joan, run!
She keeps a home for her husband, Scott, who was her college sweetheart and is now a marketing executive. She keeps an eye on her 20-year-old daughter, Abby, a sophomore at nearby Bates College, and her 18-year-old son, Anders, a high school senior.
She confers with neighbors on how to replace an old neighborhood bridge that was recently closed. She makes speeches and appearances.
And she runs an hour or two a day in preparation for the women’s United States Olympic marathon trials next Sunday in Boston, which raises questions:
Why would a 50-year-old woman (51 next month) want to run 26 miles 385 yards against potential Olympic medalists?
Why would she compete as the oldest of the 160 or so starters? (The next oldest are four 46-year-olds.)
Because she is Joan Benoit Samuelson, the matriarch of American distance running, the winner of the first Olympic marathon for women in 1984 and a pioneer in bringing acceptance to women’s distance running.
In a recent interview at her home, she said she would be running “just because it’s an Olympic trials and I qualified. But if the weather turns up terrible, I might not run and just race in the Boston Marathon the next day.”
The first three finishers in the trials will qualify for the United States team for the Beijing Olympics. Can Samuelson make the Olympic team?
“Oh, God, no,” she said. “It’s just me against me. I want to run 2:50 at age 50.”
If she averages 6 minutes 30 seconds a mile, she will reach her goal of 2 hours 50 minutes. Her career best is 2:21:21, but that was 23 years ago over Chicago’s flat course.
“This will be my fourth Olympic trials,” she said. “I qualified for all of the previous six, but in 1988 I just had Abby and in 1992 I had a full mother load with two small children. But I’ve always had the urge to run.”
Samuelson said she used to run 120 miles a week. “Now I’m down to 70 or 80,” she said. “That’s all I can do.”