Joan Benoit Samuelson had the Chicago Marathon circled on her 2017 running calendar.
Several months after turning 60, the former Olympic Marathon champion from Freeport had hoped to become the first woman her age to finish a marathon in less than three hours.
That quest will have to wait.
According to the Chicago Tribune and other media reports, Samuelson has withdrawn from Sunday’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon because of a knee injury.
“Oct. 8 has been on my calendar for some time, but I need to put my goals and my story on hold for now,” Samuelson said in a statement released Wednesday. “Chicago holds a special place in my career, and while I cannot compete this year, I am looking forward to cheering on thousands of runners as they chase their goals and tell their stories on race day.”
Samuelson, a Cape Elizabeth native, achieved worldwide attention in 1984 when she won the gold medal in the first-ever Olympic women’s marathon at Los Angeles. She previously had established the world record of 2 hours, 22 minutes, 43 seconds in the Boston Marathon and in 1985 set an American marathon mark with a time of 2:21:21 — a record that endured for 18 years.
Carey Pinkowski, the executive race director of the Chicago Marathon, told the Tribune that he is honored to have Samuelson at the race although disappointed she can’t compete.
“Joan is a champion, and while we would love to celebrate a new record and career milestone with her, we are looking forward to having her here in Chicago to cheer on more than 40,000 runners,” Pinkowski said. “We are honored any time a running icon like Joan comes to Chicago.”
According to Competitor.com, New Zealand’s Bernardine Portenski owns the 60-and-over world record marathon time of 3:01:30, set in 2010.
Last spring, Samuelson ran her first competitive marathon in her home state when she ran the Sugarloaf Marathon in Kingfield.
“It’s going to be a really big effort on my part to get there,” Samuelson said of her quest to break three hours in a July interview with the BDN.
Samuelson is the driving force behind the Beach to Beacon 10K road race in Cape Elizabeth, which in August celebrated its 20th year. The event has grown from 3,000 participants to more than 6,000 and annually attracts some of the fastest runners not only in Maine or the U.S., but from around the world.