Yesterday, one of the greatest distance runners of our time passed away. Grete Waitz was a nine-time winner of the New York Marathon and died yesterday at 57 from cancer. It is such a sad day for the running community. She was a true pioneer for runners everywhere, especially female athletes. Her husband encouraged her to do the first NY Marathon in 1978. She was an award winning distance runner in Norway, but had never run over 12 miles. She said she struggled hard during the marathon and was cursing her husband for making her try it. She ended up winning on her first try. Seriously! She went on to win 8 more times.
I’ve read a few stories about her including her personal account of the first marathon, but my favorite I saw in the documentary “Run For Life.” The film is about the NYC Marathon founder, Fred Lebow. He was an avid runner and dedicated his life to the New York Marathon. Unfortunately, as the race director, he was never able to participate in his own beloved race. He was diagnosed with brain cancer and although still going through treatments, he was determined to run the NY Marathon. Grete Waitz ran it with him and they crossed the finish line together in tears. She said that the first marathon and her race with Fred meant more to her than any other races she participated in, including when she won the gold medal in the Olympics.
Grete was a very humble, private person and did a lot for her fellow runners and was loyal to her family. She will be greatly missed as legends like that don’t come along every day. My condolences to the Waitz family for their loss.