Joan Benoit Samuelson is searching for a story.
Four years ago, the Freeport resident and 1984 Olympic gold medalist declared an end to her “competitive” marathons.
Of course, she didn’t say what, for her, constitutes a competitive marathon. Which is how she wound up running the Olympic trials in Boston three years ago (“It was all about running a sub-2:50 at the age of 50”); running New York two years ago (“wanting to celebrate their 40th in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the (Los Angeles) Olympic marathon”); and running Chicago in the fall (“celebrating the 25th anniversary of my fastest marathon”).
On Monday, she will run from Hopkinton to Copley Square for the first time since 1993, in the 115th edition of the Boston Marathon (the trials were on a loop course devoid of the substantial hills Samuelson favors).
“I thought I had a story all wrapped up with my last Boston being in 1996,” she said. “It was 15 years ago and this being the 115th” edition would make a suitable narrative.
When a race official informed her that 18 years — not 15 — had passed since she last ran Boston, “I almost reneged,” Samuelson said. “But somehow I’ll find a story somewhere. I think running Boston with my daughter in the field is story enough. She was very young when I ran my last Boston.”
Abby Samuelson, now 23, qualified for her first Boston in her marathon debut (3:23:45) in October at Chicago with her mom, who turns 54 next month. Although the Samuelsons will be the most prominent Mainers in Monday’s race, neither is likely to be the first resident across the finish line.
Both Sheri Piers of Falmouth and Robert Gomez of Saco have earned elite bibs. Piers, 39, will start with the women’s elite field at 9:32 a.m.
Gomez, 27 and making his debut in Boston, will start at 10 a.m. with the elite men ahead of the first of three waves of approximately 9,000 runners, all of whom will be wearing red bibs. The second wave will wear white and start at 10:20, and the third will wear blue and set forth at 10:40.
“I’m just excited to experience it regardless of the outcome,” said Gomez, who finished 10th in the Houston Marathon in January in 2:23:02 and is a little apprehensive about running another marathon so soon afterward. “Elite status or not, I’ve always wanted to run the Boston Marathon. I think it’s an achievement for anyone who runs it and completes it.”
Gomez met Samuelson briefly last summer before her Beach to Beacon 10K road race but never has run with her. A native of Waldoboro who competed at Bates College, Gomez is a lab support specialist at General Dynamics in Saco and is working toward his master’s degree in organic chemistry from the University of Maine.
“She’s a remarkable athlete and a remarkable person,” Gomez said. “I’m in awe of her.”
Piers, a nurse practitioner, already has met the “A” standard of 2:39 to qualify for the 2012 Olympic trials in Houston next January. She turns 40 next month, so she’ll have to wait another year before running Boston as a master.
Two years ago at Boston, she set a personal best of 2:37:04. She said she’s thrilled to have a buddy from Maine among the elites. They can ride the police-escorted bus to Hopkinton and warm up together.
“It’s just a very cool experience,” Piers said.
With her regular partner, Kristin Barry, recovering from a knee injury this winter, Piers has been doing all her training on a treadmill. That isolation led her to run four half marathons in four weeks, including Eastern States and the inaugural More Magazine race in New York’s Central Park. She won both races.
“I just wanted to be around people,” she said, “because I’ve been running alone.”
Samuelson, too, has had an unusual marathon training regimen that often included a morning run, downhill skiing until early afternoon and Nordic skiing before dinner. She recently returned from a six-day trek through the Alps over the legendary Haute Route, along with her husband, Scott, two other couples, two single men and a guide.
The group stayed at mountain huts — some without potable water, some without any water — and brought along skis, skins, ice axes, crampons, ropes and beepers.
“I thought that was all window dressing,” Samuelson said. “I really didn’t think we were going to use anything but our skis and our skins. Come to find out, we used everything.”
The first day included a belay and required 11 hours to reach their destination. Another day involved avalanche danger. While they were on the route, another party lost four members in an avalanche.
“It was much more than my husband and I had bargained for,” she said. “It challenged me physically like nothing else.”
Monday’s race will be a challenge of a different sort. She knows the course. The crowds lining it all know her. Hanging out there in the possible-but-improbable realm is the 2:46 “B” qualifying standard for the 2012 Olympic trials.
“Who knows? Piers said. “She may surprise herself.”
Besides, said the executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, Samuelson doesn’t need a story.
“We don’t need her presence to fit any sort of historic date or pattern,” said Tom Grilk. “Her simply being here just makes it real special for us. This is delightful.”
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: