Joan Benoit-Samuelson, winner of the first-ever women’s Olympic marathon in Los Angeles in 1984, will be the featured guest at the 40th running of the fabled Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon the first weekend of March 2018.
Long one of the pioneers of women’s running and a well-regarded spokeswoman for the sport of long-distance running, Joanie plans to attempt to set a world age-group record for 60-year-olds at the Kiwanis Club of Greater Napa 5K the morning of the race. The 5K starts and ends at the marathon finish area in the front of Vintage High School; it begins at 8:00 a.m. on March 4, 2018.
“I’m looking forward to returning to the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon to celebrate the 40th running of the event at age 60,” she said. “I’m hoping I’ve aged well and can deliver a smooth and fast pace in the 5K before toasting the marathoners as they finish 26.2.”
As 2018 is a special year for the marathon, it also represents a special anniversary for Joanie. In March of 1979 the first Napa Valley Marathon was run. Six weeks later Joanie won her first Boston Marathon, which catapulted her into running stardom.
In another coincidence, the Road Runners Club of America celebrates its 60thanniversary during Joanie’s 60th year. The RRCA has once again designated the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon as its National Marathon Championships for 2018.
Joan has visited the marathon several times in the past. As a Master Gardener who farms the hard soil of her native Maine, Joan has nothing but praise for the richness of the agricultural accomplishments of the Napa Valley.
“I look after gardens at Wolfe Neck Farm, Bay Square (where my mom lives with assistance at age 96), and at home where I frequently harvest for the local food pantry through Plant-A-Row,” Joanie reports. “However, just had to replant my beans thanks to an over-zealous woodchuck or deer. Oh dear!”
During previous visits to the marathon, Kirsten Niesar, a member of the marathon’s board of directors and owner of Omi’s Farm along the Silverado Trail, has served as an agricultural guide for Joanie during her visits. “Joan is an enthusiastic gardener and appreciates our local bounty, from wine and olive oil to organic produce, especially in early March when her native Maine is still hibernating,” Kirsten said.
During her visit to the marathon, Joanie will participate in a special 90-minute “Conversation with Joanie” at the Kaiser Permanente Marathon College from noon until 1:30 p.m. at race headquarters at the Napa Valley Marriott. The event is open to the public, as is the day-long running and fitness expo, also at the Marriott.
Joanie’s 1979 victory at Boston was a course record. She would return to Boston in 1983 to win the race with course and world record of 2:22:43. A year later she would travel to Los Angeles, where she would completely dominate the first-ever women’s Olympic marathon, invigorating a movement that has now seen women outnumber men in many road races.
More information about the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon can be accessed at www.napavalleymarathon.org. Runners can register for the race at the website.