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Female marathon greats reminisce day before race

Women's running pioneers Joan Benoit Samuels  PaulRadcliffe spoke The HiltChicago past future marathrunning. L-r are:  Joan Benoit SamuelsPaulRadcliffe.

Women's running pioneers, Joan Benoit Samuelson & Paula Radcliffe spoke at The Hilton in Chicago on the past and future of marathon running. L-r are: Joan Benoit Samuelson and Paula Radcliffe. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: November 8, 2012 12:17PM

Champion marathoner Joan Benoit Samuelson has one little regret about her 1985 Chicago Marathon victory, a year after she took gold at the Los Angeles Olympics: She would have finished a smidge faster.

“I never look at marathon courses before I actually run the course, and that’s one time I regret not looking at the course because all of a sudden we made the turn and there was the finish line,” she said.

“So whether I would have run 2 [hours] 20 [minutes] at that time, probably not, because I think I would have gone a little bit faster.”

She won after two hours, 21 minutes, 21 seconds, on Oct. 20, 1985.

Samuelson, who still holds the fastest time for an American woman at the Chicago Marathon, and the world’s fastest female marathoner, Paula Radcliffe of England, powwowed here Saturday morning to talk about speed.

Samuelson, 55, just returned to the Boston Marathon — in its 40th year of welcoming women — together for the first time with her daughter “stride for stride,” she said. “And so that was really special.”

She had won Boston as a college student in 1979, the first marathon she ever entered.

The fastest woman in the world at the Chicago Marathon remains Radcliffe, who set a time of 2 hours, 17 minutes and 18 seconds in 2002. Her personal best and the women’s world record holder for the 26.2 mile race happened in London in 2003 when she finished in 2 hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds.

Radcliffe’s sitting this one out. The 38-year-old just had surgery and hopes to be back to normal training by January.

Might anyone beat her record this year? No, both runners said.

“Records are to be broken and to be moved on, but I don’t want it to be. I want it to stand as long as possible,” Radcliffe said.

Samuelson added: “We’re going to see a two-hour men’s marathon before we see somebody break 2:15.”

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