Grete Waitz
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Grete Waitz

Grete Waitz

That New York State of Mind
by Lizzie Wann

Running pioneer Grete Waitz was born in 1953 in Oslo, Norway. Against the odds, Waitz began her athletic career in 1970 at age 16 when she became Norway's junior champion in the 400 and 800 meters. At 18, she was the National Champion in the 800 and 1500 meters. That same year, she competed in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany.

But it was her effort in her first New York City Marathon in 1978 (and all those thereafter) for which she will always be hailed as a marathon queen. She not only won the marathon in '78 but she set a world record with 2:32:30. The next year she won again, set another world record with 2:27:33 and became the first woman ever to run a marathon under 2:30. In 1980, she outdid herself again with a 2:25:41. Waitz won nine of the eleven NYC Marathons in which she competed, including a stretch of four in a row (1982 to '85).

To add to her prestigious marathon record, Waitz was the gold medal winner in the inaugural World Marathon Championship in 1983 and the silver medalist at the 1984 Olympic Games, the first to feature the marathon event for women. And it's not just 26.2. Waitz is also a five-time winner in the world cross-country championship.

In 1984, she established the Grete Waitz Lopet 5K in Oslo, which is one of the largest all-women events in the world. For her influence on American running in the United States, Waitz was the first foreign runner inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame.

Waitz has since retired from competitive running and commits her time to teaching others about women's running, competitive running and running for a lifetime. She has written several books including "On the Run: Exercise & Fitness for Busy People."

Grete Waitz was inducted into the Road Runner Sports Run of Fame on June 27, 2003.

note:  In June, 2005, Grete Waitz was diagnosed with cancer.  At the 2005 ING New York City Marathon in November, Waitz watched the race from the car that was leading the field.  No other news is available at this time, but our thoughts and prayers are with this great runner as she battles against the disease.

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