Check out my (amazing) running partner

That's me!! Running with the one and only Joan Benoit Samuelson

Every once in a while, I need to pinch myself to check if this life I’m living is real. Saturday, for instance, I ran more than six miles with Joan Benoit Samuelson. As in 1984 Olympic gold medalist, two-time Boston victor, former world-record holder Joan Benoit Samuelson. One on one. Surreal.

Joan was in town to run the IronGirl half marathon, an event directed by Robert Vigorito and the Tri Columbia organization (just about the best triathlon directing company on the planet, btw). I happen to write for IronGirl’s newsletter every month, so when I learned Joan was coming to town, I asked about the possibility of an interview. And what better way to do that interview than on the run?

I asked how far she wanted to go in advance and then devised a route that would highlight some of my town’s nicest spots–a couple of local lakes, our fantastic path system, etc. I met Joan at her hotel and off we went. Joan is known for her grace and humble attitude and that came across in our conversation. When I asked her about being a trail blazer for women’s running, she quickly paid homage to other pioneers in the sport who paved the path for her. According to her, she was in the right place at the right time when the first women’s Olympic marathon became reality. Like I said, humble.

We also talked about how much the sport has grown, especially when it comes to female involvement. She attributes it to the fact that running is something affordable and accessible to just about everyone. For her, she said, running is a time for reflection, and she believes this is much of the appeal for many women. To that end, she does most of her runs solo and uses this time for quiet thinking.

These days, Joan is still a competitive runner, nailing down 2:50 marathons. She said she does about two races per month and one marathon a year, although not all of her racing is done at full on race pace. She dedicates much of her time to charity events and is currently spearheading efforts to bring a world-class endurance athlete training venue to Maine, one that would also help bring health awareness to the community and focus on sustainable farming practices. She’s definitely used her “star power” for the better good over the years.

We touched on a wide variety of topics and she was always open and forthcoming. It felt very easy to ask her opinion on just about anything. For more details, you’ll have to stop by IronGirl’s web site next month to check out the full article I’ll be putting together.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about pace and keeping up with Joan–she went easy on me, of that I am sure. I will say this, though: I kind of regretted the nine miles I ran earlier in the day with friends!

Me, Joan, and race director Robert Vigorito

Many, many thanks to both IronGirl and TriColumbia for hooking me up for the amazing, once in a lifetime experience. If you’re a runner or triathlete in the Mid-Atlantic, I highly recommend you check out their events, especially their brand-new IronGirl triathlon coming up this summer in Rocky Gap, PA, which promises to be a beautiful course and top-notch race experience.

Who else has met Joan?

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  1. says

    First of all – I’m so jealous! Second – I’ve decided that no more will I gawk from a distance. This summer when I see her at Beach to Beach or the LL Bean 10k, I WILL introduce myself! I only live 30 minutes from her and do see her at various summer road races. You are one lucky lady!!!
    Jen recently posted..Team Need For SpeedMy Profile

  2. says

    What a great opportunity! Joan ran in two races that I’ve run in the last two years and seeing her was so very cool for me. Her speed leaves me in awe and I’d love to hear her talk about all of her race experiences like you were able too! Happy for you!

  3. says

    This is a dream come true! She is definitely on my list of elite runners I would love to meet one day! I’ve heard the same about her – it’s funny – seems that most distance runners have the same demeanor as she does – down-to-earth and humble.
    Thanks for sharing your conversation and a few pictures!! So happy (and jealous of course) for you! =)
    Michele @ nycrunningmama recently posted..Officially Published!!My Profile

  4. says

    She is so very inspiring, not only her past (although, come on, it’s awe-inspiring), but because of who she is today. She has aged so gracefully and does so much to help our sport. As a master runner, she is someone I can aspire to. Not that I don’t love runner’s like Shalane and Kara, but Joan is where I can aspire to go (obviously never being that good, but I can relate to her). I can’t think of a better person to have interviewed her. You have so many of the qualities you described in her… Open, humble and kind. I really look forward to reading the full article. I really wish I was sticking around to have run the Iron Girl Half, sounds like an event not to miss.
    LisaM@RunWiki recently posted..A Tribute to my TribeMy Profile

  5. says

    What an amazing experience for you! :-)

    Malinda (slow twin) met Joanie at the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler Expo when she went to pick-up race bib for Leah (fast twin) who ran a PR with the bib Joanie signed for her! :-)

    Joanie is so inspirational and a great story teller, too! Just like her, my “races tell stories” – I just wish I was better at writing! 😉
    @TwinSistersRun recently posted..REDEFINE POSSIBLEMy Profile

  6. says

    You have the biggest smile in that picture, so awesome! And that picture of you two running is so cool. What an amazing experience and much deserved. :)

  7. says

    Last fall when I ran with her, she did not go easy on me! She really wanted to run on our canal path and so we had a 10 mile route for her, I ran with her for about 5 miles at 7:15 min/mile pace before having to drop back and I had raced the day before too. She is amazing tho and it was so fun to hear her talk about her life. Such an amazing experience.
    J recently posted..Tune up RaceMy Profile

  8. says

    That is all kinds of cool. I remember devouring the coverage of the ’84 olympics – I even bought the commemorative coins with my scarce teenage dollars. I vividly recall watching her finish the race, although as a kid I didn’t really grasp the significance of the race. Really great that you had a chance to do this. She really represents all that’s good about running and sports.
    Chris @ Evolving Through Running recently posted..Tapering Towards UltraMy Profile

  9. says

    That is really cool! I talked to her on a plane for about 2 hours once, sat right next to her after she had been in my hometown on Davenport to run the Bix 7. She couldn’t have been any nicer.

    Um…if I knew I was running with her for even just 6 miles, I’d have had to taper for a couple weeks to keep up with her easy pace. Haha. No way I could have run 9 earlier with friends.
    Jill recently posted..Let’s blame this failure on the socks….My Profile

  10. says

    What an AMAZING experience! I am so happy for you that you got to do this — I really can’t think of anyone more deserving of such an honor. I’m excited to read the article when it’s published – please share here or let us know the link. So wonderful!!!!
    jessica recently posted..Number 3My Profile

  11. says

    What an inspiration! I love stories of women still running as they get older, and her paces are just unbelievable. I love that she’s so humble about it… what an awesome opportunity for you!
    Laura recently posted..April recapMy Profile

  12. says

    SO SO COOL! She is seriously my favorite. I met her here in Chicago when she was in doing broadcast for the marathon. Cannot remember what year. I am thrilled you had such a great opportunity and can’t wait to read the full article. : D
    Teamarcia recently posted..Race Report: Loop the LakesMy Profile

  13. says

    I bet when you started your blog you never thought you’d do running interviews with legends. Truly amazing!
    I totally agree with her as far as why women run. I enjoy having the time to think and get my head in the right place.
    Char recently posted..Riding the Roller CoasterMy Profile

  14. says

    She is so impressive and how neat that you got to run with her. She came to Montana last year for a run and was a guest speaker. She won the race but I love saying I raced with her and won my age group but still got beat by an older woman. She is so inspirational!

  15. says

    Wow! Wow! Wow! I can’t say it enough. You are so fortunate but I bet she liked meeting you too! You just had an experience not many people get. Wow!

  16. says

    What an amazing opportunity! Girl this is so freaking awesome. I hope you got her to autograph something!!! I bet you could ebay the clothes you wore on the run! LOL!
    Morgan recently posted..April Recap/StatsMy Profile

  17. says

    so very cool! I am very happy for you. I have never met her or seen her but I do remember being glued to the TV for the 1984 marathon and I remember seeing this little woman with the white cap coming in the big stadium…it was fantastic!
    Caroline recently posted..The Boss {and running sick sucks}My Profile