canada africa partner reservation Remembering the 1984 U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials – Wandering in a Running World

Remembering the 1984 U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials – Wandering in a Running World


Joan Benoit of Maine breaks the tape during the first U.S. Olympic women’s marathon trials in Olympia, Washington, May 12, 1984. (Courtesy of The Olympian)

Today, May 12, 2024, marks the 40th anniversary of the first U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials held in Olympia, Washington.

238 women qualified by running a time of 2:51:16 or better. The top two seeds of the race, Joan Benoit from Freeport, Maine, who ran the women’s world record of 2:22:43 in Boston in 1983, and Julie Brown from Eugene, Oregon, with a best of 2:26:26 from LA `83, finished 1-2.

Joanie famously arrived just 17 days after arthroscopic knee surgery. The third seed, Patti Catalano (now Dillon) of Boston, was injured and finished 16th in 2:36:13. They were the only three with PBs of less than 2.30 on race day.

“Three weeks ago I reached a new level of fitness, but if this weren’t the first Olympic Trials, I wouldn’t be here,” Patti said. “I’ve lost 13 pounds since the 2:50 in Houston.”

Ishording surprises with third place

The big surprise of the day was the 22-year-old from Cincinnati Julie Isphordingwho came in as the 31st seed after her 2:34:24 sixth-place finish at the 1982 New York City Marathon. Julie ran a PR of almost two minutes at Olympia, 2:32:26, ​​earning the coveted third won a spot on the Olympic team.

31 Californians completed the race that day, 17 from Massachusetts, 14 from New York, 10 each from Oregon and Texas. I was fortunate enough to serve as the start/finish line announcer.

The race led to the first women’s Olympic marathon in Los Angeles on August 5. Another race famously won by Joan Benoit of Maine, who would marry Scott Samuelson later that fall.

After her Olympia win, Joanie said, “I felt like I had to give the trials my best all the time. It is not possible to be at full capacity on August 5 (Olympic Marathon in LA). I ran comfortably at 12 miles. I had run my own race. I knew my legs were going to go at any moment. The last 6 miles were very tough. My cardiovascular system felt great, but my legs would be lucky to hold out. I knew I would be in trouble twenty miles away if the pack came at me.”

They never did that.

Julie Brown, who finished in second place, said: “Yes, I was happy. But I was expected to make the team, and I expected to try to do it as easily as possible. I shouldn’t say that, but I knew I would make the team unless I cramped up. I have saved a lot. I expected it to be a 2:27–2:28 race. I have a few blisters, that’s all. I planned to run up to 20 miles non-competitively unless I had to.

In ninth place came 16-year-old Cathy Schiro (now O’Brien) of Dover, New Hampshire. She was in fourth place until mile 23. Her time of 2:34:24 remains the U.S. high school record and has been the national junior record for 36 years. Cathy would finish third in the 1988 trials.

“When I turned 22, I felt great. It hit me when I was 23. From 22 to 23 I felt very strong. I felt like I had confidence. Maybe I went too fast, but I’m happy with the way it turned out. I’ve only run one half marathon and two marathons, so ultimately I think this will be my best event.”

The city of Olympia was a wonderful host. Dole was the main sponsor. Brent Jamespartner of Super Jock ‘n Jill, one of Seattle’s oldest stores, served as executive director.

“I wanted the first marathon trials to be more than just a race,” said Brent. “I thought it should recognize the achievements of women’s athletics.”

It did just that. In any case, wonderful memories from a time when women still fought for equal ground in many areas. But thanks to many hardworking, dedicated people, they were able to deliver the goods on May 12, 1984. Congratulations to one person. Happy Mother’s Day everyone.