Joan Benoit Samuelson

Joan Benoit Samuelson
NBC Chicago

Joan Benoit Samuelson finishes Chicago Marathon, 34 years after Olympic gold

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An emotional 1984 Olympic champion Joan Benoit Samuelson covered Sunday’s Chicago Marathon in 3:12:13, missing her goal of breaking the age 60-and-over world record but finishing with her daughter.

“Last year I could barely run the 5k,” Samuelson, who withdrew before the 2017 Chicago Marathon with a knee injury but ran an accompanying 5K in 21:47, said in an NBC Chicago interview. “I was determined to come back this year and go the distance. You know, I just got the monkey off my back.”

Samuelson, 61, is the most accomplished U.S. female marathoner in history. She won the first Olympic women’s marathon in 1984, plus two Boston Marathons (one in a then-world-record time) and the 1985 Chicago Marathon (in a then-American record 2:21:21).

She completed her first marathon in her 60s on Sunday, when she was targeting the age 60-plus record of 3:01:30. Though she missed that, Samuelson still won her age group by more than 20 minutes.

“To have my daughter screaming at me as I was passing her in the chute, and to finish with her, that was just really special,” she said of Abby, who ran 3:11:20. “We’ll be back because we both want to go under three [hours] together. It was a tough day out there, but you know I finished and I felt good, that was a step in the right direction.”

Samuelson broke the age 55-59 record at the 2013 Boston Marathon, clocking 2:50:33 the day twin bombings rocked the world’s oldest annual 26.2-mile race.

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MORE: 2018 Chicago Marathon results