Joan Benoit wins her second Boston Marathon in the women’s division with a time of 2:22:43 on April 18, 1983. The following year, she went on to win the first-ever women’s marathon at the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles and became the first person to win Boston as well as Olympic gold.
A native of Maine, Benoit turned to long-distance running in high school after a ski injury. In 1979, as a senior at Bowdoin College, Benoit won her first Boston Marathon with a time of 2:35:15. Four years later, on April 18, 1983, Benoit won her second Boston Marathon, with a record time of 2:22:43. Greg Meyer of Massachusetts was the men’s winner that year, with a time of 2:09:00. As of 2007, Meyer was the last American man to win the Boston Marathon, which has been dominated by Kenyans in recent decades.
The inaugural Boston Marathon was run on April 19, 1897, and was a men-only event until 1972, when women were officially allowed to compete. The first female winner, Nina Kuscsik, finished with a time of 3:10:26 and was one of eight women who ran the race that year.
The first modern Olympic marathon was run at the 1896 Games in Athens. Eighty-eight years later, the first-ever women’s Olympic Marathon was run at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Less than three weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, Benoit won her Olympic trials. On August 5, 1984, she took home the gold medal with a time of 2:24:52, defeating Grete Waitz of Norway and Rosa Mota of Portugal.
Following the Olympics, Benoit returned to Maine, got married (and changed her name to Joan Benoit Samuelson) and had a family. In October 1985, she won the Chicago Marathon with a time of 2:21:21, setting a record that held for 21 years for the fastest U.S. female marathon time. After retiring from professional racing, she became a motivational speaker, author and commentator. In 2006, Benoit Samuelson helped pace champion cyclist Lance Armstrong in his first New York City Marathon. She remains the only American woman ever to have won an Olympic marathon.