Olympic Marathon: A Centennial History of the Games' Most Storied Race

By Charlie Lovett | Go to book overview

26
The Games of the XXIII Olympiad: Los Angeles, 1984

Following as it did the long battle for inclusion in Olympic competition, the race that took place on August 5, 1984 was something like a victory lap for all women marathoners. Among the favored starters were Norwegian Grete Waitz, who had never lost a marathon she had finished; Portugal's Rosa Mota, who had won the marathon in the European Championships in 1982; and American Joan Benoit, who had set the world record of 2:22:43 in the Boston Marathon in 1983. Waitz, who had lowered the woman's record many times and had run the first sub-2:30 marathon, had never met Benoit in a marathon race.

Benoit was born in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, in 1957. Her earliest athletic passion was skiing, taught to her by her father who had been an army skier during World War II. As a high school sophomore she broke her leg on the slopes. As part of her recovery from that accident she began to run and she found that she liked running just as much as skiing.

In college she played field hockey while continuing to run. When she showed up at practice one day sore from a thirteen-mile run the day before, the coach made her sit out the rest of the season and Benoit quit the team and started running full time. In 1979 she entered the Boston Marathon, her second marathon ever, as a Bowdoin College senior and won the women's division, setting an American record in the process.

After graduation, Benoit worked as the women's track and cross-country coach at Boston University while she continued to train 100 miles a week.

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