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!
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?