Joanie Still Rocks!

Joan Benoit Samuelson will be making her first appearance at the Manchester Road Race today. That in itself is an amazing feat. It is hard to believe that she has never run this event, and that she has been running in New England all of her life. Joan is a running legend. She hails from Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and is one of the best athletes that our country has ever produced. 

Her biggest victory, the Gold Medal in the 1984 Olympic Marathon, is only one result that stands out on a long list. Her victories in the Boston Marathon, Chicago Marathon, London Marathon, and Falmouth Road Race are special too. She has even been setting age group records in recent years. At 51, she is not looking back. It is great to see someone in such vital health with a burning passion for the sport that she loves.

Joan has done a lot for women and sport. Her book, Running for Women, is one of the best on the subject. When my spouse, Debbie, was pregnant, she looked everywhere for a good book that covered the topic of running and pregnancy. She was particular interested in how pregnancy affected elite runners. Joan was one of those runners. She continued to win and set records after having her children. She wrote eloquently about the struggles of running and motherhood. 

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Joan spoke at the annual pre-race Pasta Dinner last night at the Elks Club in Manchester, Connecticut. We had the good fortune to chat with Joan. I made it a point to ask her if she had ever run 50 or 100 miles. She said, “No.” Then, she turned to Debbie and said, “Better you than me.” 

We were joined at the dinner by a lot of friends from the local running community. Our good friends, Wilhelm Friedrich and Tom Curtis were in attendance, proudly showing off a Shenipsit Striders shirt with all of their past autographs from past road race greats. 

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Meeting Joan in person was cool. She remains an icon to this day, benefitting from a long time relationship with Nike. They even have a building on their Beaverton,  Oregon campus named after her. You can still find gear with her likeness on it. She is an ambassador for the sport all over the globe and it is great to finally have her in Manchester. 

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