Grete Waitz ran her first marathon in 1978 – and it changed everything. What do I mean by that? In 1977, the world record for the women’s marathon was just under 2:35. In 1978, Grete ran 2:32; in 1979, she ran 2:27; and in 1980, she ran 2:25. She took over nine minutes off the world record in three years. She, along with Joan Benoit Samuelson, brought women’s marathoning to the world stage.
Her running resume is impressive. She won a gold medal in the marathon at the 1983 World Championships. She won a silver medal in the marathon at the 1984 Olympics (the longest women’s running event at the 1976 Olympics was 1500m and Norway boycotted the 1980 Olympics). She won five World Cross Country Championships. She won the London Marathon twice and set her PR of 2:24:54 there in 1986. However, she may be best known for winning the NYC Marathon nine times. Nine times. Grete is a legend in Norway, and for at least one day every November, she is a legend in the U.S. as well.
Grete finished her final marathon alongside Fred Lebow in 1992.
Grete was diagnosed with cancer in 2005 and she passed away in 2007 at the age of 57.