The Maine Marvel, Joan Benoit. When it came to head to head marathon races, Benoit has proven to be the best of the best during the 80’s, a period when women’s marathon running went into a new era.
Benoit was not necessarily tactically brilliant, however her ability to run fast ,when it counted, proved to be her greatest asset. In winning the first Olympic games in 1984 she set a championship record which stood until Sydney 2000.
When Benoit won Boston in 1983 she set a new course, American and world record, by almost 3min with her time of 2Hr 22min 43sec. What was significant was that she took women’s marathon running into a new era, by being the first women to go sub 2Hr 25min. The previous world record stood at 2Hr 25min 29sec and had been set the previous day in London by Grete Waitz of Norway.
In 1985 at Chicago, when going head to head with Ingrid Kristiansen and Rosa Mota, she set the then world’s 2nd fastest time for the marathon, missing out on a new world record by 15 sec. Her personal best stands at 2Hr 21min 21sec which is still the American record in 2001.
Unfortunately, Benoit was troubled by serious injuries and it is remarkable how only a number of weeks after athroscopic surgery she was able to win the US Olympic Trials for the Marathon in Olympia, Washington, in a time of 2 hours 31 min 04 sec and in the same year go on to win the Olympic marathon in Los Angeles.
One can only wonder if Benoit had been able to continue with her career, injury free. for 3 years after her success in 1984 whether she would have gone on to even greater heights.
Benoit’s debut marathon was in Honolulu which she ran as a qualifier for Boston. She won Boston in 1979 in 2Hr 35min 15sec, returning in 1981 she finished 3rd in a time of 2Hr 30min 16sec.
Benoit continues to run today (2011) and has been able to participate in a number of events, however she no longer ‘pumps’ out the heavy mileage of before.
A Joanie quote: “I look at victory as milestones on a very long highway.”