News & Politics

Grete Waitz, Marathon Legend, Dead at 57


Norwegian marathon legend (and local running hero) Grete Waitz has died in Oslo of cancer. She was 57.

“For her to pass away, the greatest female athlete our sport has seen, to pass away on the day of the Boston Marathon is fitting,” said Tracy Sundlun Vice President of the marathon producing event corporation the Competitor Group. “It doesn’t make it any less painful, but it’s fitting.”

But it wasn’t the Boston Marathon that Waitz was known for but New York City’s, which she first ran in 1978 at the invitation of director Fred Lebow. Not
only did she win the fledgling event that year with a world record setting time, she went on to win a recording holding eight more times. This included a mind boggling stretch of setting world records three times in a row, from 1978 to 1980, and a five time winning streak from 1982 to 1986. During that era, she also took home a silver medal for her marathon run in
the 1984 summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Waitz hung up her marathon shoes and retired in 1990, but was a fixture at New York Road Runners events until quite recently. For the 40th NYC Marathon, Road Runners honored her as Marathoner of the Decade for the 1980s. Even in recent years, she was often found at the Javits Center during the Marathon Expo, greeting the thousands of people from around the world as they picked up their bibs and encouraging them the day before their 26.2 mile run of the city.

Waitz leaves behind her husband, Jack, who confirmed news of her death.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 19, 2011

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