Spokane, WA—Almost twenty years after winning the first Olympic gold medal awarded in the women's marathon, running legend Joan Benoit Samuelson will join nearly 50,000 runners, joggers and walkers in the 28th annual Lilac Bloomsday Run on Sunday, May 2. It will be the first time that Samuelson, who helped ignite a women's running boom with her victory in the Los Angeles Olympics, will run Spokane's popular 12-kilometer (7.46-mile) race.
"We're really excited to have Joan here for Bloomsday," said Lilac Bloomsday Association president Al Odenthal. "Joan has been an inspiration to millions of women runners, and with 58% of Bloomsday entrants being female, we think her participation here will be especially welcome."
Along with running this year's race, Samuelson will be the guest speaker at two different presentations in the Ag Center Conference Theater near Bloomsday Check-In, beginning with a talk at a Women's Forum at 5:30 on Friday, April 30. The forum is sponsored by Sacred Heart Medical Center, and will include free osteoporosis screenings. Then at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 1, Samuelson will share recollections of her Olympic experiences in a second talk at the Ag Center Conference Theater. There is no charge for either talk, and no advance registration is necessary.
In many ways Samuelson's stardom began in the Northwest, when she won the 1984 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Olympia, Washington. Many pundits had discounted Samuelson's chances of qualifying for the U.S. team in that race, since she had undergone arthroscopic knee surgery a few weeks beforehand. In spite of the surgery, Samuelson managed to win the Trials and earn a spot on the first U.S. Olympic marathon team for women.
Later in the summer Samuelson again shocked the experts at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, as she broke early from the marathon lead pack, a move considered foolhardy in warm weather. Samuelson maintained her lead, though, and crossed the finish line as the first gold medalist in the women's marathon in Olympic history.
Samuelson has managed to stay in excellent shape since then, qualifying for six U.S. Olympic Trials, including this year's, which is scheduled for Saturday, April 3 in St. Louis. Samuelson doesn't expect to be a contender for the 2004 Olympic team, but she continues to pursue high goals.
"I'll try to qualify for one more Trials in 2008, when I'll be 50," she recently told a reporter. "Just being part of the Olympic Trials is exciting for me at this time."
Samuelson lives in Freeport, Maine with her husband Scott and two children, Abigail and Anders. She is a frequent speaker on running and fitness, and is the author of two books.
Runners interested in running with Joan should note that here are just two weeks left to sign up for Bloomsday for the on-time fee of $10.00. Entry forms are available at area US Banks, Safeway Stores, Snyder Bakery Outlets, Premera Blue Cross, Holy Family Hospital and Sacred Heart Medical Center. Runners can also sign up at Gart Sports' two local stores until 9:00 pm on the deadline day, April 13th. Mail entries must be postmarked by April 13 to avoid the late entry fee of $25.00.
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