Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson smiles while talking to a running group in Portland before a training run in this July 13, 2017, file photo.

Maine’s most famous long-distance runner will celebrate her breakout performance in the sport 40 years ago on Monday when Joan Benoit Samuelson competes in the 123rd Boston Marathon.

Samuelson raced the 26.2-mile distance for the first time at Boston as a 21-year-old in 1979.

Having never seen the course before, she donned her Bowdoin College singlet and a Boston Red Sox baseball cap, and set what then was an American women’s marathon record of 2 hours, 35 minutes, 15 seconds.

The Cape Elizabeth native and Freeport resident went on to win Boston again in 1983 in a world-record time of 2:22:43. That clocking still stands as the 13th-fastest women’s Boston Marathon time.

She then captured the gold medal in the inaugural Olympic women’s marathon a year later in Los Angeles with a time of 2:24:52.

Now 61, Samuelson will wear bib No. 1979 for Monday’s run from Hopkinton to Boston, a tribute to her stunning victory in the race 40 years ago.

She said in mid-March while announcing her intention to run this year’s Boston Marathon that her goal for this year’s race is to run within 40 minutes of her 1979 time — 3:15:15 or less.

Samuelson last ran the Boston Marathon in 2015 and finished in 2:54:03. Samuelson was the champion of the women’s veterans’ (ages 50-59) division at the 2011, 2013 and 2014 Boston Marathons, setting a veterans record of 2:50:29 in 2013.

Samuelson competed in her most recent marathon last October, finishing the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 3:12:13.

“We are delighted to have Joan Benoit Samuelson return to the roads leading to Boston in celebration of the 40th anniversary of her 1979 win,” said Tom Grilk, CEO of the race-sponsoring Boston Athletic Association.

“Joanie’s impact on American running, the Boston Marathon and women’s running in general has been instrumental, and has inspired thousands of Boston marathoners. We look forward to her crossing the finish line again on April 15.”

Samuelson will join 10 other Boston Marathon open-division champions in this year’s race, including defending race winners Desiree Linden of the United States and Yuki Kawauchi of Japan.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...