Grete Waitz will undoubtedly be remembered as the pioneer in women’s marathoning as well, most probably, as the patron saint of the New York City marathon.
Winning the New York City marathon an unprecedented nine times is no mean feat, then to set a new world record on 4 occasions is simply unbelievable.
As a barrier breaker she became the first woman athlete to break 2Hr 30min.
Waitz came from a background of track and cross country before she went on to make her name in the marathon.
The race proved to be a turning point for Waitz’ career. She would return to New York and win an incredible nine titles, in ’78, ’79, ’80, ’82, ’83, ’84, ’85, ’86 and ’88. She set world records in ’78, ’79 and ’80.
At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Marathon, Waitz won the silver medal. Thus adding to the Gold she had won the previous year at the Helsinki World Championship Marathon.
Few female runners have as complete a resume as Grete Waitz. And her success in the marathon came at a time when the event was not recognised as a race that women, could or should excel at. Waitz changed all that and during a period of 6 years improved the World Record for the distance no fewer than on 4 occasions.
2: 32′ 29″8 Grete Waitz, NOR, 22 Oct 78, New York.
2: 27′ 32″6 Grete Waitz, NOR, 21 Oct 79, New York.
2: 25′ 41″3 Grete Waitz, NOR, 26 Oct 80, New York.
2: 25′ 28″7 Grete Waitz, NOR, 17 Apr 83, London.
When breaking the record on the 2nd occasion, she took Women’s marathon running into a new era, by breaking the 2Hr 30min barrier. Thereafter, the Norwegian came extremely close to becoming the first athlete to break the 2Hr 25min barrier.
After winning the inaugural World Marathon Championship in ’83, the marathon times were to improve in leaps and bounds. New stars began to emerge on the scene, however this did not end Waitz’s domination of the New York City Marathon. She was to have a further 4 wins, her last being in 1988.
By then, Waitz had secured her name in the Hall of Fame for marathoners, for all to revere for years to come.
Her status is accepted and Waitz continues to play an active role in the promotion of the sport till this day. Norway’s famed marathon queen, is the symbol of the sport movement and female revolution in Norway in the 1980’s. Once a year in Oslo the streets are filled with about 50.000 female joggers. This is the so-called Grete Waitz Race, which has become more and more popular each year, as well as being honoured with a statue located outside Bislett Stadium in Oslo.
Quote : For every finish-line tape a runner breaks — complete with the cheers of the crowd and the clicking of hundreds of cameras — there are the hours of hard and often lonely work that rarely gets talked about.