CAPE ELIZABETH – The past continues to be woven into the present in Joan Benoit Samuelson’s life.

She’s always believed in giving back to those who supported you, who inspired you. That’s how she came up with her running partners for this year’s TD Beach to Beacon 10K.

Every five years, Samuelson runs in the race she started in her hometown, joined by a partner of her choosing. In 2002, she crossed the finish line with New York City firefighter John Gleason, one of the four NYC firefighters invited to run. In 2007, she crossed with Jacqueline Gareau, the 1980 Boston Marathon winner.

“This year, as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX and what it meant to women, I decided to celebrate a few good men in my life,” Samuelson said Friday. “These are three men who have been instrumental with what I’ve done with my life and how I’ve lived my life.”

So Saturday morning, Samuelson will be joined on her run by Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter — two of the greatest marathoners in U.S. history — and Leon Gorman, the former president and current chairman of the board for L.L. Bean, who has run the Beach to Beacon several times.

Each of those men, through their lifestyles and philanthropy, helped Samuelson set a course for her life.

Samuelson, who won the first Olympic women’s marathon gold medal in 1984, spoke of watching Rodgers and Shorter run in the men’s marathon in the 1976 Montreal Olympics — Shorter finished second — and then sneaking out of her house for the first of many late-night runs.

“Those two guys gave me the hope for sports at a time where it really wasn’t available,” said Samuelson, the race coming four years after the passage of Title IX.

Gorman’s products have had a place in her life ever since she broke her leg as a sophomore in high school.

Her parents promised to buy her whatever type of shoe she wanted when she recovered. She wanted a pair of Bean’s Blucher moccasins — shoes she still owns today. Beyond that, said Samuelson, Gorman’s advocacy for healthy living, the outdoors and philanthropy “really personifies all that is good about this state.”

While Samuelson spoke glowingly of her running partners, those present at a press conference Friday shared the love.

Gorman, 77, wasn’t around, but Rodgers and Shorter, both 64, spoke highly of their longtime friend.

Rodgers, a four-time winner of both the Boston Marathon and New York City Marathon between 1975-80, ran in the first Beach to Beacon. He met Samuelson in 1974 and the two have followed each other’s careers and lives closely.

“This means a lot to me,” he said. “To run with Joan and Frank, our two greatest marathoners they did so much for America.

“We want to celebrate. We’re going to have fun.”

Rodgers said Samuelson obviously has meant more to Maine than simply being an Olympic medal winner. Looking at this race, he sees that she cares about the environment, the children who are the beneficiaries of the race charity and her hometown.

“She is a champion in every sense of the word,” he said. “She does good things wherever she goes.”

Getting Shorter, who lives in Colorado, to join them was important, said Samuelson. Not only was he a great runner, but he had a personal connection to Maine.

His mother, an artist, had a home in the Downeast coastal town of Tenants Harbor, where his prep school roommate also lived. He would visit often, sometimes working the lobster boats with a family friend. He also attended the Maine Distance Festival in Brunswick.

“I wanted to come back and see where (Samuelson’s) love of the sport came from,” said Shorter. “I wanted to see a part of her I hadn’t seen before.”

The only question now is who will pace the group.

While Rodgers and Shorter deferred to Samuelson, she said someone else will lead the group.

“Leon,” she said. “We’ll take our marching orders from Leon.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH


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