News & Releases >> August 11 2009

Joan Benoit Samuelson confirmed to headline "Legends" at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 20th Anniversary weekend, September 25th-27th

Joan Benoit wins first women's Olympic Marathon

TORONTO. August 11th. Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won the first ever Olympic Marathon for women in Los Angeles 25 years ago last week, has confirmed that she will return to Toronto for the 20th Anniversary celebrations of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon & Half, September 25th-27th weekend. "Joanie" won the first two editions of the Toronto Waterfront event in 1990 and 1991 when it was run as the Coors Light Toronto Half Marathon.

In addition to racing this year's Half, she will be the headline "Legend" returning to the event, along with Ed Whitlock — the first and only person over 70 years on the planet to run under the magic 3 hour mark [2:59:10 in 2003 & 2:54 in '04]; Fauja Singh, the British Sikh who set new 90+ age group world records for the marathon in 2003 [5:40:02] and for the Half in 2004, on the flat, fast Waterfront course; and Silvia Ruegger who raced Joanie in the 1984 Olympic Marathon, in the Coors Light Toronto Half Marathon, and is still the Canadian Women's Marathon Record holder. Both Whitlock and Ruegger are also planning to race the Half this year; Whitlock at aged 78, and Silvia for KidsFest Charity; Fauja will run the Waterfront 5K at age 98.

"We're just thrilled to have 'Joanie' back for the 20th Anniversary" says Race Director, Alan Brookes. "She's a legend not just in the USA, but throughout North America and around the world. Passion, courage, determination — a champion in every sense of the word. Not only a legend, but someone we are truly proud to have connected with the establishment and growth of our event, and the character and inspiration she has brought to it."

For a truly inspirational flashback to 1984 see www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dFgH_vDh6E.

In addition to racing the Half at Toronto Waterfront this year, Joanie will speak at the Expo, once on Friday and once on Saturday, and at the Pasta Dinner on Saturday evening at the Hyatt. She will talk on "Making running a life-long pursuit, and setting goals through the ages. Stories of my career and most meaningful races."

Joanie's highlights!

  • 1979. won Boston in World Best time, 2:35:15.
  • 1983. won Boston in new World Best time, 2:22:43.
  • 1984. won US Olympic Marathon Trials, 17 days after arthroscopic surgery.
  • 1984. won inaugural Olympic Marathon for Women at Los Angeles Games.
  • 1985. won Chicago Marathon in American Record time, 2:21:21
  • 1990. won 1st edition Coors Light Toronto Half Marathon in 1:12:37.
  • 1991. won 2nd Coors Light Toronto Half Marathon in 1:13:29.
  • 2008. ran "sub 2:50 at 50" for her "retirement marathon" at US Olympic Trials, Boston.
  • 2009. in March, set a new American Women's 50+ record for 3000m [10:22.69] at Indoor Masters Championships.
Joanie signing autographs in 1990
Joanie in Runners' Choice store signing autographs in 1990 [current STWM Race Director Alan Brookes on right] - click to enlarge

Joanie remembers 1990...

"What I remember about my first trip to Toronto is having a difficult time getting my 8-month-old son, Anders, through Customs as an infant because I didn't have any proof of his identity! Fortunately they finally decided that I was his real mother and wasn't kidnapping him.
I also remember the runners I met being very appreciative and passionate."

Memorable events:

  • The 1984 Olympic Trials, just 17 days after arthroscopic knee surgery is what I consider the race of my life.
  • The 1984 Olympic Marathon is what I consider my biggest win.
  • The 2008 Trials was one of my most memorable races as far as setting a goal for myself... sub 2:50 at 50.

"Balance has been the key to my longevity as a runner."

"I run approx 50-75 miles/week. I also do some cycling and kayaking to supplement my training in the spring, summer and fall and Nordic and alpine skiing in the winter."

Goals for my 2009 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half?

"I would like to run close to a 1:20 in the half if you don't totally wear me out with appearances!
Yes, I am very much looking forward to returning to Toronto. It is always a treat to appear in a community that really appreciates runners and supports our sport."

Joanie will also be joined on stage at this year's Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Expo by Silvia Ruegger, Canadian Women's Marathon Record Holder and 8th place finisher in that historic 1984 Olympic Women's Marathon.

Silvia Ruegger

Everyone knows about Joanie's run in 1984; but what about Silvia's? In '84 she was an unknown Nutrition student from the University of Guelph, who had grown up on a small-holding in Newtonville, Ontario. With no real international racing experience, she found herself not just participating in the first-ever Women's Olympic Marathon, but in the trailing pack of 6 chasing Joanie, that included the world's other Women's Marathon Pioneer Legends: Norway's Grete Waitz, 9-time winner in New York, and world-record holder Ingrid Christensen; plus Portugal's Rosa Mota. Silvia tripped and fell hard at one of the early water stations, but got up and chased back into the pack. Eventually broken by Mota's relentless surges in the later stages, she still courageously and remarkably finished 8th in 2:29:09.

The following January she won Houston in 2:28:36, the Canadian Women's Marathon Record that still stands today, almost 25 years later! On September 27th, she will run the Half for KidsFest, one of STWM's Official Charities, and one of Silvia's driving passions today. She will speak on "The 1984 Olympic Marathon and A Runner's Life."

Throughout the weekend, Joanie and Silvia will be introduced by John Stanton Sr., founder of the Running Room, who has played such an important leadership role in developing running in Canada over the past two decades, through his world-famous Running Room Clinics.

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