CAPE ELIZABETH – Joan Benoit Samuelson’s voice started to crack.

“Grete has really made this a celebration of 10 years,” Samuelson said, pointing back to former running rival Grete Waitz of Norway. “She epitomizes women’s marathons, and she’s a role model for me and dear, dear friend.”

Waitz, 53, won nine New York City Marathons between 1978 and 1988. She also won a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, behind Samuelson, and a gold medal at the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki, Finland.

Waitz also holds an even more special place in Samuelson’s heart. She is the godmother to Samuelson’s son.

“Timing was perfect,” Waitz said. “We have a place in Gainesville, Fla., and we were still here. Joan was in Oslo several weeks ago and we had been talking about our plans, and she said, ‘You should come to our race.'”

Waitz can’t run since she is recovering from a torn hamstring. But she didn’t rule out a possible return to Cape Elizabeth in the future, either.

“I have two brothers who run, and I have to bring them back here to see this,” Waitz said. “Also to see this area. It’s my first time here, and already I can see this is going to be a place I really like.”

As the gathered crowd at Inn by the Sea applauded after her first introduction, Samuelson paused and gathered her thoughts. She wasn’t quite done as she turned to the rows of seats behind her. There stood Jacqueline Gareau, 53, of Montreal.

Gareau won the Boston Marathon in 1980, one year after Samuelson did. Gareau’s win was somewhat delayed that year, though, amid the infamous Rosie Ruiz cheating incident.

That experience brought Samuelson and Gareau together, and the two have been friends since.

“I ran into her in Colorado,” Gareau said, “and she said, ‘You have to come to the race.’ Then she called me and said, ‘Hey aren’t you coming?’ because I hadn’t answered back. Now, I am glad I made it.”

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