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Running Advice from Joan Benoit Samuelson

I was fortunate enough to sit down and gain running advice from Joan Benoit Samuelson, one of the greatest runners in the marathon, and one of the trailblazers for womens running. What did I take away from our chat?

I hope you all found my post yesterday provoking and heartening. Running a Boston Qualifying Marathon accomplishment, but so is running a marathon, period. Establish your own standards of success!

Advice from Running Great Joan Benoit Samuelson.

Thank you to Nike Chicago for this incredible opportunity!

First things first, about the lady herself!

From Joan’s Website:

Joan Benoit Samuelson’s name is synonymous with women’s running. She began running track in high school in the town of Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Samuelson continued on to Bowdoin College, where her career soared. She received All-American honors in cross-country and track, and won the Boston Marathon in 1979, setting an American and course record, all before she graduated. Samuelson won the Boston Marathon again in 1983, this time breaking the world record. One year later, at the age of 27, she won the gold medal in the first women’s marathon at the Los Angeles Olympics. In 1985, Samuelson won the Chicago Marathon with an American record time of 2:21:21.

Currently, she is a consultant to Nike, Inc. and a clinician, conducting numerous running, health, and fitness clinics throughout the United States and the world. Samuelson is also an experienced motivational speaker, giving regular addresses to corporations, civic groups, schools, and athletes. She has authored two books, her autobiography Running Tide (Knopf, 1987), and Joan Samuelson’s Running for Women (Rodale Press, 1995).

In other words, JBS is a bad ass mother runner. Also, still fast as crap–she is aiming to run the Chicago Marathon this year (the 30th anniversary of her record time) within 30 minutes of her 2:21:21!!

Running Advice from Joan Benoit Samuelson

1) No Finish Line

Both Joan and Nike put a lot of stock in the fact that “there is no finish line.” I have spoken to this before, so I’ll admit that I felt a bit validated by hearing this from the lips of running greatness. I try to think of these races as milestones or checkpoints in the larger picture. Life doesn’t end when you cross that finish line. Have a plan for moving on past your heavy training, and don’t just drop everything because you no longer “have” to run. 

2) Trust Your Training, Don’t Test Your Training

We all know this, but I’m still glad that Joan reiterated the Trust Your Training advice. If you’ve read my post on dealing with Taper Madness, you know how much weight I give to this statement (and Body Glide). I liked the addendum of “don’t test your training,” too. Sometimes, you just have to have faith in the process (assuming that you have enlisted proper educational sources). 

I would take this a little bit further to live in the mile: don’t sit there and fret about the miles before or after–deal with where you are right now.

3) Running is All Inclusive

As one of the fastest American female marathoners, I wanted to ask Joan about the other side of the spectrum: what would she say to those runners who feel like they don’t “qualify” as runners on account of their pace or how they compare to others? At first, Joan said that as long as they are getting out there for their health and enjoying themselves, they should keep on, but later, she seemed to have had some time to think about what she wanted to say and she said that one of the great aspects of running as a sport is that it is “all inclusive.” It doesn’t care what color, weight, height, speed, distance… if you run, you are a runner. 

4) Create a Story for Motivation

For Joan, the way that she stays motivated for each race, for each training, and to keep going after each of her pursuits is by creating a motivation story for herself (reminds me of Laura’s Running Narrative!) for whatever she is going after, and that she reminds herself of. This seemed to be very personal to her–she didn’t divulge the story that she currently is working on for Chicago–but it was obviously something that meant a lot to her, and her alone. This marathon is part of a larger life, a larger story, and she is building it every day!

5) Take advantage of the resources available to you.

Not Joanie’s words, but the moral of a story that she told us. Joanie says that she doesn’t really have any regrets when she looks back at her career, but the closest that she has to a regret was not looking at the course map ahead of time. As a result, she didn’t realize how fast the finish of the Chicago Marathon would come up and didn’t empty her tank at the end–she says that she still had more to give!

Nike Run Club Chicago getting surprised! (Can you find me?)

Nike Run Club Chicago getting surprised! (Can you find me?)

Great advice from #running legend Joan Benoit Samuelson via #runchat #chicagomarathon @WMMajors Click To Tweet

What would your “blurb” about running be? 

What do you hope to take away from your running?

Linking up with Courtney, Cynthia, and Mar for Friday Five, Marcia, Patti, and Ericka for Tuesdays on the Run!

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Have you read these gems?


  • Reply Michelle

    Love this! Especially Number 2! So great you got to meet her…enjoy your weekend!
    Michelle recently posted…5 Favorite Fall ActivitiesMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 5:14 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      She’s pretty cool. I hope that you had a great one!

      September 28, 2015 at 11:21 am
  • Reply Michele

    Love all of this, especially that there’s no finish line and “don’t test your training” – I think we all feel that doubt and want to test ourselves, but it’s really not necessary. Great advice to read over and over 🙂
    Michele recently posted…Paleo Pecan Pumpkin Pie BarsMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 5:19 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Honestly, we can’t hear it enough!

      September 28, 2015 at 11:21 am
  • Reply Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner

    How fun to interview her! I have a hard time trusting my training and tend to throw it all out the window. Why? I have no idea 🙂
    Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner recently posted…Ab Dolley Review & Demo- Fit n Fashionable FridayMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 7:03 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      hahaha the questions of life!

      September 28, 2015 at 11:22 am
  • Reply Sarah

    I cannot tell you how many times this week I have typed out, “Trust your training.” So many e-mails asking for advice on how to make it through the marathon. At this point, trust is what you have to rely on. This sounds like a pretty awesome experience. Nothing like meeting one of the greatest in the sport.
    Sarah recently posted…18, 20, or 22 Miles: Pick Your PoisonMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 7:23 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I agree. And while you’be been typing it, I’ve been telling it!

      September 28, 2015 at 11:23 am
  • Reply Laura @ This Runner's Recipes

    Thank you for sharing my link! I look up to Joan so much and am so excited you finally shared this! I like her advice about not testing your training. I’ve got to figure out how to watch Chicago Marathon from Portland (I’m doing my RRCA that weekend) to watch her and cheer you on!
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted…Kabocha Squash Maple Oatmeal {Gluten Free, Vegetarian}My Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 7:24 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Wooooo! And then I take RRCA next weekend. COACHING TWINSIES

      September 28, 2015 at 11:20 am
  • Reply Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    I love that she supports all runners! It’s so disheartening to see things where people think “slow” runners shouldn’t have a shot at the marathon. Good to know she’s on our side 🙂
    Julie @ Running in a Skirt recently posted…Fashion Friday- Early Fall ScarfMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 7:29 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      SEnd them over to me and I will punch them in the face.

      September 28, 2015 at 11:20 am
  • Reply Bri

    Love that “trust your training, don’t test it” advice. A small part of me wants to register for a marathon in 2 weeks to see if I can run a 3:29, even though I’m not properly trainings, just to see if I can. Talk me out of it!!!
    Bri recently posted…{Friday Favourites} The best health and fitness reads of the weekMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 7:37 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      DON”T DO IT.
      Crazy woman.

      September 28, 2015 at 11:19 am
  • Reply Erica @ erica finds

    My favorites from JBS were to “run your own race” and to “remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint – pace yourself.” Both of these are critical and difficult!
    Erica @ erica finds recently posted…Wednesday Giveaway Roundup #37My Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 8:19 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      So true. There is a lot to be said for living in the mile but also not to run your heart out in said mile!

      September 28, 2015 at 11:18 am
  • Reply Ashley @ A Lady Goes West

    Hi Susie! How cool you met a running legend. My husband grew up in Maine and I’m pretty sure he said he used to see her running around the neighborhoods! She has some great advice here … not just for running, but for life in general! Trust the process, find your inspiration and plan ahead. Right?
    Ashley @ A Lady Goes West recently posted…Friday Favorites: A book, a drink and shineMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 8:23 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Preach it lady!

      September 28, 2015 at 11:18 am
  • Reply Jamie

    Trusting the training is the hardest part about marathons in my opinion. The taper crazies are real, and I think it’s hard to not push on up until race day since that’s what we’ve become accustom to. Love all this 🙂
    Jamie recently posted…Just Like That…My Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 8:28 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I definitely need to pull it back a bit this week and honor the taper!

      September 28, 2015 at 11:17 am
  • Reply Marcia

    I love Joanie! And I love that you got to meet her. The fact that Deena Bair on WGN called her Joan Benwaaa I didn’t love so much. I mean really?!?
    Marcia recently posted…Runfession Friday: Taper CrazyMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 8:49 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      bahahahahahahahahahah FAIL

      September 28, 2015 at 11:16 am
  • Reply Run Colby Run

    Love this Suze!! Especially Numero 2. She is one of my All Tme Running Favorites. How could she not be? Girlfriend is super fly fast….STILL! <3
    Run Colby Run recently posted…Crowdsourcing My Next Workout PlanMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 8:52 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It is nonsensical, honestly.

      September 28, 2015 at 11:15 am
  • Reply EB @ Running on E

    I see you!
    Isn’t she so great?! So calm and down to earth. I felt a little spazzy around her. I am so impressed by her insane talent. I’d love to run even close to her pace.
    EB @ Running on E recently posted…26.2 with DONNA 2016 Discount CodeMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 9:50 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      She freaked me out because she was so calm. She would look at me like I was an idiot before answering, haha.

      September 28, 2015 at 11:16 am
  • Reply Suzy

    “and Body Glide” LOL I love those little bits you insert into your writing like that. You’re hilarious. A running blurb? I’m not sure. I do know that I love the no finish line philosophy. I take that too far, actually in that I don’t even race because I don’t want to use up all my resources and be unable/too tired/sore to run the day after a race! I guess it saves me a lot of money on race registrations!
    Suzy recently posted…Blended Family Friday: TrustMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 9:54 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Is it weird that I know EXACTLY what you mean? I just want to keep running. And running.

      September 28, 2015 at 11:15 am
  • Reply Sam @ PancakeWarriors

    How cool was she!! This is such a great outlook on life, and the sport of running. No finish line is going to be my life motto. I’m so freaking in love with this!
    Sam @ PancakeWarriors recently posted…A Day in the Life of a Girl’s Best FriendMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 9:56 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I’m freaking in love with you.

      September 28, 2015 at 11:12 am
  • Reply courtney @ eat pray run dc

    she’s so amazing! thanks for sharing this with us. have a great weekend 🙂
    courtney @ eat pray run dc recently posted…Five Favorite Fall ActivitiesMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 10:00 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Absolutely! Thank you for hosting!

      September 28, 2015 at 11:09 am
  • Reply lacey@fairytalesandfitness

    Such great advice. How cool you got to meet her. It really is all inclusive. It doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you are out there doing it. You’re still lapping everyone that’s on the couch. So don’t compare yourself to other and as in the Nike phrase. JUST DO IT!
    lacey@fairytalesandfitness recently posted…Running the Tussey Mountain RelayMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 10:03 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I have been so fortunate with the opportunities that I have been given this summer, and meeting her was a big moment! And you know I love to JUST DO IT

      September 28, 2015 at 11:09 am
  • Reply Hanna @ TheMillennialNextDoor

    Love this! “No Finish Line” was hands-down my favorite part. I really need that reminder, like all the time.

    It’s funny how we tell ourselves and each other this same stuff all the time, but it’s not until a successful elite athlete says it that we really start to take it to heart.
    Hanna @ TheMillennialNextDoor recently posted…Thinking Out Loud: Racing, Seasons, and WordPressMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 10:12 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I know, right? Sometimes, we have to hear our own advice from different lips. And it doesn’t hurt when those lips belong to a running great!

      September 28, 2015 at 11:05 am
  • Reply Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious

    It’s awesome you were able to speak to her! I like the first tip best about it not ending when you cross the finish line. I think if anything every time I have crossed one, it’s fueled me to keep going and reach for bigger goals!
    Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious recently posted…Toasted Walnut Apple Pie SmoothieMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 10:40 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I agree–a finish line is like the base of the next stair!

      September 28, 2015 at 11:04 am
  • Reply Anna @ Piper's Run

    “Trust your training don’t test it” – I think that’s why I’m so injured. Great tips!
    Anna @ Piper’s Run recently posted…Always Double Check Your Gym BagMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 10:52 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Well that and some bad luck (the ankle). But yeah, the not testing things is a huge point!

      September 28, 2015 at 11:03 am
  • Reply Jess @hellotofit

    Although I do not run races, I can definitely appreciate each point she made for life in general! Especially trusting the process rather than testing it. NEEDED THIS TODAY.

    September 25, 2015 at 11:51 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hope it helps!

      September 28, 2015 at 11:03 am
  • Reply Jill @ Champagne for Everyday

    What an insightful interview (great questions) and a wonderful lady! I’m not a runner, but I actually find that much of her wisdom could be very useful in the marathon of life!
    Jill @ Champagne for Everyday recently posted…Positano: What I Wore, What I Ate, & Where I Stayed On The Amalfi CoastMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 12:00 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You know I agree with life and running have many parallels!

      September 28, 2015 at 11:02 am
  • Reply Barrie

    This is pretty incredible that you were able to speak with her- I love your point about “living in the mile”- so important and I really needed this post to help prepare my mentality that has been suffering on the long run.

    September 25, 2015 at 1:38 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I hope it helps! Long runs can be so freeing, but they can also cause us to get really stuck in our own heads. Run for the mile you are in–that is the one you can control.

      September 28, 2015 at 11:00 am
  • Reply Heather@hungryforbalance

    So inspiring! I am coming back to running after a hiatus and I definitely get frustrated from time to time. I love reading this inspiring lady’s advice! Thanks!
    Heather@hungryforbalance recently posted…Friday Favorites: Fall Things!My Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 1:56 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It can be really difficult to come back to running–especially as a mom, because you have to learn to expect new experiences and feelings from your body. Keep at it!

      September 28, 2015 at 10:58 am
  • Reply Mar @ Mar on the Run

    oh man, absolutely love this!!! I caught a couple glimpses of her at the Beach to Beacon 10K she puts on. Totally inspiring!
    Mar @ Mar on the Run recently posted…Friday Five: Favorite Fall RunsMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 5:58 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I love how crazy involved she continues to be in the running community!

      September 28, 2015 at 10:57 am
  • Reply Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home

    Great advice from 2 great ladies! I am such a huge fan of Joan’s (and yours)…I’d love to meet her. But I’d be rendered speechless…
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…The Joy StealerMy Profile

    September 25, 2015 at 6:02 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Then you should just meet me, and we can yammer on like fools 😀

      September 28, 2015 at 10:57 am
  • Reply AmyC

    She’s the best! Love that she encourages everyone to go after their running goals.
    AmyC recently posted…Sniffles, Smoothies, and some RunningMy Profile

    September 26, 2015 at 3:15 am
  • Reply jill conyers

    Love love #2. What a fantastic opportunity to meet with one of the running greats. Still fast as crap is awesome!
    jill conyers recently posted…Flavors of Fall: Smoky Bean ChiliMy Profile

    September 26, 2015 at 3:25 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      She is truly a running great, in every way!

      September 28, 2015 at 10:56 am
  • Reply lindsay

    she is TRUE motivation, and so are you! I love how she said TRUST your training. That’s something we always question but need to stop guessing and testing .. FULL ON TRUST indeed

    September 26, 2015 at 6:26 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I also like that she said trust your training, but don’t test it. That hit home for me, even though I tell everyone to trust their training!

      September 28, 2015 at 10:56 am
  • Reply

    I enjoyed reading this interview. I just found it through the link-up. How awesome that you got to meet her. Her achievements are so impressive. She really is the best! recently posted…Training Log for the NYC Marathon 9/14 – 9/20 Week 10My Profile

    September 26, 2015 at 6:30 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I’m so glad that you found me! And thank you for your kind works! Joanie truly is an inspiration–and she keeps on running!

      September 28, 2015 at 10:55 am
  • Reply Pam and Christine

    Great post and I love #3. As a runner who started at the ripe old age of 57, I feel that age and speed of runners crosses all barriers. I have made some wonderful friends through my running group and most are 20 years my junior. It is a fantastic sport and Joan is such a hero to so many of us. I was fortunate to meet her in Disney World a few years back and it turns out that I was in college with her brother!
    Pam and Christine recently posted…#261 Fearless AmbassadorMy Profile

    September 26, 2015 at 8:55 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      How funny would it have been if you had like dated him or something? I am so proud to be in a sport that lets us all compete together against ourselves. Regardless of who you are or what your age is!

      September 28, 2015 at 10:55 am
  • Reply Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine

    Great advice here! I love the concept of no finish line, and also to trust your training. Its always refreshing to hear such practical and meaningful advice from such a successful runner!
    Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine recently posted…5 Things to Love about FallMy Profile

    September 26, 2015 at 2:31 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And hearing from Joan isn’t so bad either, right? lol jk She really is successful, and to show the longevity of her career is testament enought!

      September 28, 2015 at 10:54 am
  • Reply Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes

    I love the trust your training. I had a huge battle with that at the beginning of my marathon training because it was such a deviation from what I was used to. But I succumed, trusted my coach and went with it. When you are able to do that I think big things can happen! Great stuff suz!
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…Hemp Heart Bites: the latest and greatest snack!My Profile

    September 26, 2015 at 8:15 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And you are doing so well this time around, and from what I can see, loving it!

      September 28, 2015 at 10:53 am
  • Reply Amanda @ Diary of a Semi-Health Nut

    I must be super emotional right now because this made me a tear up? I love that running is all inclusive (racing is another story because it can be expensive), but I’ve never been awesome at sports but running is something I can do! AND I love creating a “why.” #itsgettingdeepinhere
    Amanda @ Diary of a Semi-Health Nut recently posted…18 Heavenly Delicious Pumpkin RecipesMy Profile

    September 27, 2015 at 2:57 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      If you notice, I don’t race all that much. A few a year. I would run regardless, but sometimes I need the timeline so that I have a reason to work up and then back off.

      September 28, 2015 at 10:52 am
  • Reply Lesley

    So jealous! I loved reading Amby Burfoot’s book, and it’s amazing how far women’s running has come, from not being allowed to run anything beyond 1500m, to so many US women medaling in Rio.

    September 20, 2016 at 7:59 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I know! AMAZING!

      September 23, 2016 at 8:13 pm

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