Eight months pregnant, WSU Law dean runs marathon

Jocelyn Benson, dean of Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, has became one of only a handful of women in history to complete the Boston Marathon in her eighth month of pregnancy.

Benson, 38, of Detroit completed last week’s race in 6 hours, 12 minutes, 32 seconds.

This marathon was Benson’s 22nd overall and the second time she has run in the Boston Marathon.

She finished in 4 hours in 2009.

Benson qualified for the April 18 event at the San Diego Marathon in May with a time of 3 hours, 37 minutes.

“I found out in September that I was accepted to run in Boston, and I found out a month later that I was pregnant,” Benson said.

Initially, she thought she would be unable to compete.

“But then I read a story about Amy Kiel, who had my same due date, was in her mid-thirties and had finished Boston in 2015,” Benson said. “Her story inspired me to realize what seemed impossible was possible. So, I started training and, with the blessing of my doctor, flew to Boston to run.”

Benson and her husband, Ryan Friedrichs, who was in Boston to cheer her on, are expecting their first child, a son, June 4.

This year is the 50th anniversary of women being permitted to run the Boston Marathon.

Benson completed her first marathon, the Detroit Free Press Marathon, in October 2005, deciding to compete after completing the Ann Arbor Half Marathon and learning that the Free Press marathon finished on the 50-yard line of the Detroit Lions’ Ford Field.

“My first marathon experience in Detroit was so positive that I decided afterward to train and try to qualify for Boston,” Benson said.

She began running two marathons a year, ultimately qualifying for Boston the first time in May 2008 at the Traverse City Track Club Bayshore Marathon.

“Running in Boston in 2009 was the best marathon experience of my life,” Benson said. “It meant a lot to me because Wellesley College, where I went for my undergraduate degree, is the halfway point of the race and because I had completed my law degree at Harvard Law in nearby Cambridge and met my husband there. Being able to run in Boston is a very special experience, and the fan support is unrivaled.”

Benson’s other marathons have included those in Florence, Rome and Venice, all of which she and her husband ran together while he was stationed in Italy with the U.S. Army.

She also ran the Portland Marathon in Oregon in October, when she was one month pregnant.

“Other than Boston, my favorite marathon is the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “It is very moving to run with so many veterans and service members, running by numerous national monuments and finishing at the Iwo Jima Memorial.”

Benson was appointed dean of Wayne Law in June 2014 after having served as interim dean for nearly two years.

At the time of her appointment, at age 36, she became the youngest woman ever to lead a U.S. law school.

In October, Benson, a civil rights advocate and national election law expert, was inducted into the 32nd class of the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.

She is one of the youngest women inductees in the history of the hall of fame, second only to Serena Williams, a 2012 inductee.

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