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“I’ve never dropped out of any race I’ve started.”
These confident words begin our documentary and illustrate Joan Benoit-Samuelson’s devotion and passion as she strides into her fifth decade as a marathon athlete. This quote also sets up the drama and conflicted nature of an aging athlete pushing the limits in one of the most demanding sports of all. Her story is an exciting message of human potential, beating long odds and sustaining healthy philosophies for the planet and the human “race”.
During her inspiring career as a long distance runner Joanie (as she is affectionately called) has overcome a plethora of injuries and setbacks that would discourage most from ever continuing on. Now into her fifties she has taken her commitments beyond running onto a path of community outreach and environmental stewardship.
Our documentary explores the life of Joan Benoit Samuelson — a passionate yet humble hero of our times. It chronicles the impact of family and place on Joan as a young girl, tracks the competitive spirit of an Olympic champion, and depicts her evolution into a shining beacon for environmental advocacy.
Inset within the film are the historic moments of her improbable 1984 Olympic Gold Medal, told by those who witnessed it. The story goes on to tell of the thrilling Boston Marathon victories and her trail to multiple women’s marathon records. It depicts Nike’s role in changing the perception of female running potential- making possible Joan’s achievements, breaking barriers and inspiring women thereafter.
But the heart of the film follows Joan as she runs the inspirational trails in her hometown state of Maine, and follows her to a finish at the 2010 Chicago Marathon the site of her world record victory 25 years ago At the age of 53, Samuelson ran a 2:47:50, becoming the fastest American woman in the marathon in the 50-54 age group. She missed qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials by less than two minutes.
She then went on to the San Francisco Women’s Marathon where 20,000 women celebrate Joanie’s legacy. Can she hang her running shoes up or is she driven to go the distance again. The Boston Marathon looms and a crack at her fifth Olympic Trials!
In the end there is no end… proving whenever and however her competitive career ends- Joan will be an inspirational beacon to follow.
Erich Lyttle: Director
Sarah Henderson: Producer/DP
Geoff Hollister: Producer
Joan Benoit Samuelson: As herself