Location: Deschutes Parkway
Women’s History

1984marathonStart of first women’s marathon trials, near Marathon Park, 1984, courtesy The Olympian OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMarathon Park today (2014), photo by Deb Ross

Marathon Park, first created in 1970 out of fill that extended the park into Capitol Lake, was renamed in 1984 to commemorate an historic event.

In 1981, the International Olympia Committee finally decided to introduce a women’s marathon at the upcoming 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Major cities immediately began vying for the opportunity to host the first trials for the event. In a move reminiscent of the City’s famous campaign to become the state capital, then-Supreme Court Justice Gerry Alexander, along with Slade Gorton, traveled to Philadelphia and wooed the committee with a hospitality room filled with food and beverages from Washington State, including the eponymous Olympia beer. The city easily won out over its larger competitors. It remains the only city under 120,000 to host marathon trials for men or women.

The 1984 trials attracted thousands of participants and spectators. Joan Benoit, later Joan Benoit Samuelson, easily won the trials and went on to become the first women’s marathon winner in Olympic history.

Although Marathon Park is named for that historic event, the trials actually began ended a little south of the park at the Thurston County courthouse. The park is owned by the Department of Enterprise Services, a department of the State of Washington.

Additional resources:

DES webpage for park

Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross