Joan Benoit and Deena Kastor in Chicago (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
The 1985 Chicago Marathon still ranks among the most memorable in the event's 33-year history. Both athletes nearly set World records on the same day, and registered performances that put the Chicago Marathon on the fast track to becoming one of the premier running events in the world.
"The sport of marathon running does not have bigger legends than Joan Benoit Samuelson and Steve Jones," said Executive Race Director Carey Pinkowski. "These two athletes set the bar for world class performances at the Chicago Marathon 25 years ago, and they ushered the sport of distance running into a new era. We're proud that they are returning to Chicago to add another exciting storyline to this year's race."
Benoit Samuelson, after Olympic triumph a national Marathon hero
When American Benoit Samuelson crossed the finish line of the 1984 Olympic Games Marathon in Los Angeles, she became the event's first-ever female gold medallist, and as a result, a national hero. Benoit Samuelson brought her hero status to Chicago in 1985 to face one of the deepest women's fields ever assembled, including World record holder Ingrid Kristiansen of Norway and Olympic bronze medallist and defending Chicago Marathon champion Rosa Mota of Portugal. Benoit Samuelson won in 2:21:21 to establish a new course and American record, while missing the World record by just 13 seconds. Benoit Samuelson's American record stood until 2003.
"It's a true gift to return to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon after posting my fastest time ever in the same marathon 25 years ago," said Benoit Samuelson. "I never thought that I would still be competing 25 years later and challenging myself with new goals. After the Olympic Trials in Boston in 2008, I said that I was finished with competitive marathon running, but the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on 10-10-10 is too great of an opportunity to pass up. My goal is to run as fast as I can for as long as I can and to challenge my best time over the age of 50."
Benoit Samuelson's time of 2:49:08 at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon made her the first America woman over the age of 50 to run sub 2:50. Last fall, she ran 2:49:09 at the New York City Marathon. If Benoit Samuelson manages to run under the 2:46:00 U.S. Olympic Trials standard, she would qualify to compete in a record fifth U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon. She has previously competed in the 1984, 1996, 2000 and 2008 Trials races.
Jones’ national record still stands
Welshman Jones put the Chicago Marathon in the distance running spotlight in 1984 when he won the eighth annual event in a World record time of 2:08:05. Jones' performance gave instant fame and notoriety to the Chicago Marathon for its flat and fast course. He returned to Chicago in 1985 to defend his title and reclaim the World record which had been broken by Portugal's Carlos Lopes. On a cool and rainy day, Jones ran solo virtually from the gun, passing the halfway point in 1:01:40 (unofficially). He missed the World record by one second; however, his winning time of 2:07:13 set a course record and remains the British marathon record. Jones' aggressive running style won him many fans in Chicago, and his attempt to shatter the World record in 1985 is one of the most revered efforts in all of Marathon running.
"This event was the site of my greatest athletic performances and I always look forward to returning," said Jones. "I'm proud to be part of the tradition of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and to have witnessed how the event has grown since I last won here 25 years ago. This time I'll enjoy the run without the pressure of a word record to reclaim."
Jones will be accompanied in Chicago by 12 athletes that he coaches in his hometown of Boulder, Colorado. His athletes are Olympic Trials hopefuls who will be running for personal bests on October 10.
25 Years Later
Twenty-five years after Benoit Samuelson and Jones set duel course and national records, the Chicago Marathon has grown from less than 9000 registered runners in 1985, to 45,000 in 2010. The 2010 event reached its capacity in a record 51 days.
The course, which was run primarily on Lake Shore Drive in 1985, now runs through 29 different Chicago neighborhoods, and spans the North, West and South Sides of the city, starting and finishing in historic Grant Park.
Jones' and Benoit Samuelson's 1985 course records have since been broken. The new records now stand at 2:05:41 for men (Sammy Wanjiru, 2009) and 2:17:18 for women (Paula Radcliffe, 2002).
Jones' British record of 2:07:13 still stands to this day, while Benoit Samuelson's American record was broken in 2003 by Deena Kastor (2:19:36).
Jones lives in Boulder, Colorado where he coaches a team of elite athletes called the Boulder Express. Benoit Samuelson lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine and is the founder and chair of the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K which attracts more than 6000 runners including a world class elite field.
Organisers for the IAAF