Samuelson to continue island love affair
One of the world’s greatest long-distance runners is back in Bermuda and plans to race all three days during Bermuda Marathon Weekend.
Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first women’s Olympic Marathon champion, is looking forward to reacquainting herself with the island, where she has raced twice before.
She won the first Bermuda 10K women’s title in 1979, and three years ago returned to have a crack at the Bermuda Triangle Half Challenge, where she finished second in the women’s division.
“I remember the festive atmosphere and meeting athletes from many different places,” she said. “The hospitality was greatly appreciated and I enjoyed the clinic I did at the hotel.”
Other highlights were a “great massage” and trying to avoid potholes and cracks in the road as she ran in the darkness during the mile race on Front Street.
Bermuda holds a special place in the story of Benoit Samuelson’s emergence as one of the world’s best marathon runners in the 1980s.
The day after she won the island’s 10K, she joined in the marathon race as a “recovery run”. The plan was to call it a day at halfway and get a lift to the finish in the race pick-up vehicle.
But when she learnt that the vehicle would not be coming through until all the marathoners had gone by, she kept running and ended up finishing as the second woman in 2hr 50min 54sec.
It was the first time she had run more than 22 miles. Encouraged by her performance, she entered the Boston Marathon a few months later and won the women’s title in 2:35:15, less than three minutes outside the world record.
In 1983, she broke the women’s marathon world record when she again won the Boston race in 2:22:43.
Then, in Los Angeles the following year she won the first women’s Olympic Marathon. She continued running for a number of years, only stepping away from the sport when she became a mother. She has since returned to racing to compete in the masters and senior masters age divisions.
This year she turns 60, and her ambition is to run a marathon in under three hours.
Recalling her most recent visit to Bermuda in 2014, Benoit Samuelson said she had enjoyed an off-road training run along parts of the Railway Trail, and was pleased that her legs “held up quite well” during the Bermuda Triangle Challenge, where she ran a mile race, a 10K and a half-marathon on consecutive days.
“The hardest race for me was the 10K. The hill at the end with the rain was tough,” she said.
When asked what keeps her motivated to continue running after such a lengthy career, she said: “Storytelling. I try to come up with a story for the races I run and then go out and try to make the story come true.
“I turn 60 this year and will try to run a sub three-hour marathon in the fall.
“Storytelling has seemed to motivate me since turning 50 when I was going to make the Olympic Marathon trials in Boston by running a sub 2:50 marathon. So much for ending my career then!”
Her approach to training has changed over the years, but she stays very active.
“I do a lot of cross training. Right now I am doing a lot of Nordic and Alpine skiing in addition to my running.
“In the warmer months I do a lot of gardening, cycling and kayaking. I have also started to do some paddle boarding and yoga — trying to keep it as young as possible and in balance.”
In recent years she has become a friend of Bermuda Marathon Weekend chairman Anthony Raynor, who has taken part in the TD Beach to Beacon 10K in Maine, a race that she founded.
She hopes to run in the mile, 10K and half-marathon events this weekend.
Bermuda Marathon Weekend gets under way at 7pm this evening with the KPMG Front Street Mile races and a series of mile races for the Bermuda Triangle Challenge competitors.
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