Sports & Gaming

Starting Line

Joan Benoit Samuelson

Lesson time 06:02 min

This lesson is about the 1972 Title IX legislation, which was signed into law while Joan was in high school. She shares the personal stories that took her—a natural and passionate runner—from rural New England roads all the way to the Olympics.

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Topics include: TITLE IX - Accidental Discovery - ’79 Boston Marathon


[MUSIC PLAYING] JOAN BENOIT: Oftentimes, I think of myself as having been in the right place at the right time for many of my accomplishments. And I think that starts with my career as a student athlete in high school. And that is exactly the same time when Title IX legislation became law. Title IX was law that was passed in 1972. And it applies to athletics and college athletics, especially, and then further on to the Olympics. It did not allow for any discrimination based on sex and gave equal opportunities to women. And so it really opened doors. That's why I had the opportunity to then go from running as a member of a club to a member as a team. Men had, you know, football, and soccer, and golf. They had many more opportunities. They had cross-country as well. The guys on the cross-country team knocked on the office door of our field hockey coach and said that they were running against high school that afternoon who was bringing two girls along with them. The girls wouldn't count in the scoring but they were going to run with the teams. And they said, can Joanie join us, because I used to sneak out of study halls to run a four and 1/2 mile loop around the high school. And I felt that I could get away with it because my mother was on the school board at that time. And I thought everybody would turn a blind eye. Nobody ever said anything. And I can't tell you how many police cars, truant officers passed me during some of those runs, but I was doing something that I loved to do. And as long as nobody said anything, I wasn't about to stop. And that was a real turning point in my career as well because I beat the two other girls and I beat a lot of the boys as well. I had aspirations of making it to the Olympics or into a world championship as a ski racer. And my dad brought us up on skis, my brothers and I, about the same time that we were learning how to walk. And he had a real passion for skiing and had served in the 10th Mountain Division during the war. And he wanted his kids learning how to ski as early as possible. That was one of the few sports that I could do as a young girl. I could ski and I could play tennis and that was about it. So that's where my dream was to make it into the Olympics as a ski racer. And then I broke my leg ski racing my sophomore year in high school. And as soon as the cast came off, I turned to running as a form of rehabilitation. And that's when I discovered that I had a real passion for running because it was easy and fun. So I started challenging myself with longer and longer distances. Girls didn't exercise back then or it wasn't proper really for young girls to engage in rigorous exercise as in the so-called experts and sports before the '84 Olympics thought if a girl or a woman ran more than 500 meters, she'd do bodily harm and never be able to bear children. And two children later and 150,000 miles under my belt, I'm still out there doing it. And I had no idea it was goi...

About the Instructor

Winner of the very first women’s Olympic marathon, Joan Benoit Samuelson has spent her life breaking records and paving the way for female runners around the world. Now she’s teaching her personal philosophy and approach to running. Whether you’re an experienced runner or have been thinking about getting started, you’ll learn how to get motivated, set goals, and achieve victory in running and in life.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Joan Benoit Samuelson

Long-distance legend Joan Benoit Samuelson teaches her personal approach to running so you can go further in running and in life.

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