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Olympic gold medalist won over by race

There isn’t much Joan Samuelson hasn’t seen as a runner, and that includes Bloomsday, but the 1984 Olympic gold medal marathoner admitted she was a little awestruck Sunday morning.

“Hey, just the fact I can get out here and compete and run, I’m not complaining,” the 54-year-old Maine native said. “This is only my second time here. It’s like sleep deprivation as a young parent: You forget what it’s all about until the second one comes around.

“This reminded me what a great event this is.”

Samuelson won the first Olympic women’s marathon in Los Angeles and held the world record for two years and the American record for 17. She came to Spokane six years ago to see the race she heard so much about and was just as inspired the second time around.

“I’m continually amazed by how smoothly the event runs, how receptive the entire community is to the event and how dedicated the volunteers and board of directors are to the event,” she said. “It’s inspirational in so many ways.”

That would include the numbers – more than 50,000 finished this year – and what they represent.

“I went back to watch the runners leaving, the walkers,” she said. “It’s just incredible, an all-inclusive event. I think it should be a model for all major cities. Not so much the competitive piece at the front end, although that is very exciting, with the elite athletes and wheelchair athletes.

“At a time when health care presents so many issues, you can get this many people out on the road just moving at their own pace, I think it speaks volumes about what every community in this country could be doing to promote health and wellness in a healthy way.”

Being at less than 100 percent healthy herself, Samuelson finished in 46:03, which still marked a slight improvement over her 48:06 finish in 2004.

“My run went OK,” she said. “I was a little disappointed, but I gave it what I had today.”



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