Joan Benoit on Running

"No problem," I said.

When she came back, she said, "Mom, I hate to ask you this, but if you watch my babies a little longer, I can dash to the grocery store."

So I said, "Sounds just fine to me, Abby."

She came back a third time and said, "Mom, you don't need to watch my babies anymore."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm not going to run anymore," she said.

I was feeling horrible guilt about pursuing my running career, so I worried that she was going to add, "Because running takes too much time away from my babies."

I was relieved when she said, "Because these babies are twins and I'm nursing both of them—my boobs are killing me!" Otherwise, I would've quit right there.

Surround yourself with people who let you do your own thing. When we went on trips, I'd sometimes run in the direction we were traveling, or I'd run toward the airport, and Scott would pick me up. My family also steers clear before big events, when I become a bit selfish and irritable. I think of PMS as pre-marathon syndrome. The symptoms are very similar!

There's more to life than Olympic gold. After I came through the tunnel in L.A., I said to my family and friends, "Don't let this moment change the person I am. I'm going to give back to the sport and to the community that has given me so much." People think winning the gold medal is the highlight of my career. But I'm proudest of founding the TD Banknorth Beach to Beacon 10-K, held every August in my hometown, Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Each year we help a different kids' charity. This year, the race will benefit the Susan L. Curtis Foundation, which helps economically disadvantaged children in Maine.

Sharing your passion with your kids is pretty cool. In 1984, I hadn't even thought about having kids. This year, Abby was at the trials, yelling "Go, Mom!" It brought tears to my eyes. The day before, she'd set a personal record in the 1,500 meters at a collegiate cross-country meet. She has the same passion I have for running, yet she's charting her own course. I'm so proud of her for that.

In May, Abby and I traveled to Morocco for a women-only 10-K organized by Nawal El Moutawakel, the first female athlete from an Arab or Muslim country to win an Olympic gold medal (in the 400-meter hurdles in 1984). The race drew 30,000 women from all over the world. And in August, the whole family—Abby, Anders, Scott, and I—will run the Beach to Beacon 10-K. Last year Anders finished in 39 minutes, followed by me, then Abby, then Scott. It's very moving to share life experiences like this with my family. We always wait for each other at the finish line.

Apply laserlike focus to whatever you do. I knew the course at the trials this year would be flat, and it almost psyched me out. I like an undulating terrain. Though I've never worked with a sports psychologist, I considered calling one! I ran conservatively and concentrated on getting to the finish line. My last mile was my fastest. Maybe I could have spent that earlier, but I have no regrets.

Passing the torch will make you happy. Deena Kastor was expected to win the Olympic trials this year, but Magdalena Lewy Boulet, who finished second, got so far ahead in the first half that I could hardly believe Deena won. Before she broke onto the scene in 2002, I had heard about Deena's training routine and race results. I saw a lot of myself in her, and I said, "This is the woman who will carry the torch, because she has the passion and the focus and the work ethic to win."

Life is a marathon. You never know what a marathon—or life—is going to deal you. I try not to look at marathon courses before I run, because they seem so long. And I tend to run a little bit faster when I don't know what's around the next corner.

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