Grete Waitz, superhero of marathons and especially the New York City marathon, which she won 9 times (!!), died today of cancer.
Grete Waitz (1 October 1953 – 19 April 2011) was a Norwegian marathon runner who won nine New York City Marathons between 1978 and 1988, more than any other runner in history. She also won a silver medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and a gold medal at the 1983 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki, Finland.
It was in 1978 that her association with the New York City Marathon began; she was invited to run there by race co-founder and director Fred Lebow and in her first marathon effort not only won but took a full two minutes off of the women’s world record. She went on to win the race nine times and broke the world record three years in a row. In all, she lowered the women’s world record by an astonishing nine minutes, taking the standard from Christa Vahlensieck’s 2:34:47 down to 2:32:30 (1978), 2:27:33 (1979), 2:25:41 (1980), and finally to the 2:25:29 that Waitz ran at London in 1983. Besides her victories in New York, Waitz also won the London Marathon in 1983 and 1986 (the latter in a personal best of 2:24:54).
In a Twitter posting, marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe remembered Waitz as “an amazing champion and more amazing person.”
Retired cyclist Lance Armstrong, who overcame testicular cancer to win the Tour de France seven times, called Waitz “a good friend and an incredible athlete” on his Twitter feed.
An inspiring history for people who aspire to greatness in a challenging field, also in the ESPN article:
Waitz had never run a marathon when she started the New York City race in October 1978. Her husband had talked her into trying, but after about 18 miles she regretted it.
“I was hurting. I was mad. I was angry. I told Jack: ‘Never again,” Waitz recalled in 2008.
Read my weekly newsletter
Subscribe for a weekly update of musings on leadership, the environment, and burpees.