I want you to wake up to a world record and an American course record that stood for almost 30 years. It’s hard to find video of this race, so I’m going to toss in some imagery and describe it as best as I can for those who didn’t watch or weren’t alive yet.
Imagine going to bed before the biggest race of the season – a race where you are the favorite and you are the most talked about runner around. Here’s a caveat, someone stole your world record while you were sipping your coffee that morning. Well that’s what happened to Joan Benoit in 1983. Benoit held the marathon world record at 2:26:12 until her Norwegian rival Grete Waitz one-stepped her the day before the ’83 Boston Marathon. Waitz ran 2:25:28 at the London Marathon.
About 24 hours after the world record was set, Benoit is on the starting line. The mission was not not only to win the Boston Marathon, but to take back the record that was her’s just yesterday. The gun went off and Benoit ran record-setting splits split-along the way. She cruised through 10 miles at 51:34 and the half marathon point at 1:08:34. At one point, she was on pace to run about a 2:17.
The race went on and Benoit was way ahead of the rest of the women’s field by the time that she reached the Newton Hills. She slowed a tad over the second half of the Boston course but not too much. Benoit crossed the finish line and obliterated the world record by Waitz. Samuelson’s final time was 2:22:43, almost a full three minutes quicker than Waitz’s run in London.
Benoit Samuelson went on to win the 1984 Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles and continues racing on the roads today. She a ran sub-2:50 marathon at 50 years old at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.