News Archive 2009-2018

How To Build Mental Toughness Archives

Photo: Kevin Morris


By Joan Benoit Samuelson ’79

For me, mental toughness comes through the art of storytelling—thinking of a story that motivates me to get out there and shoot for a goal, and then writing the story through action. For instance, the fortieth anniversary of the New York City Marathon coincided with the twenty-fifth anniversary of my Olympic win, and that told a story. I wanted to run 2:50s in all the major US marathons after turning fifty [which she did, including the Olympic Marathon trials on the Boston course in 2008, when she ran a 2:49:08]. I’d always wanted to run a marathon in my home state of Maine but never had, until last spring, when I did with a longtime running friend who suffers from Parkinson’s. Writing these stories keeps me going. You have to realize that obstacles along the road to success are apt to pose challenges and that “sticktoitiveness” is key. Compromising goals is not okay, but setting intermediate goals can help you string together the chapters of your story.


Joan Benoit Samuelson ’79 won gold in the first-ever Olympic women’s marathon in 1984. The former world-record holder, two-time Boston Marathon champion, and running legend continues to set competitive running records and advocate for women’s issues in sports, the environment, and an active lifestyle.

 This piece first appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of Bowdoin magazine.