Nine-time winner of New York and five-time winner of World Cross passes away
The athletics world was today shocked and saddened by the death of Norwegian distance runner Grete Waitz after a six-year battle with cancer. She was 57 years old.
Waitz was one of the world’s greatest distance runners throughout the Seventies and Eighties. In 1975 she set a world record of 8:46.6 for 3000m and bettered it one year later with 8:45.4.
Waitz made her marathon debut in New York in 1978 and set a world best of 2:32:30. She went on to win New York a record nine times with two more world bests. Her fourth world record, 2:25:29, came in London in 1983 just months before she won the gold medal at the inaugural World Championships.
In 1984 she won Olympic silver, and two years later she set her lifetime best when winning her second London Marathon title, clocking 2:24:54. Waitz also won the world cross-country title five times.
Leading athletics statistician Mel Watman ranked Grete Waitz as the greatest female marathon runner in history in his ‘All Time Greats’ series for Athletics Weekly in 2006.
Waitz accompanied Fred Lebow, her close friend and founder of the New York Marathon, on his final run in New York in 1992 after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. 13 years after that run, Waitz revealed that she too was suffering from the terminal illness.
World record-holder Paula Radcliffe has long considered Waitz to be one of her biggest idols. “Her biggest strength is just what a great, humble and nice person she is,” Radcliffe said in the past. “She has an amazing record in New York and an unbeatable record in world cross country as well. That was a big inspiration to me.”
Today on twitter, Radcliffe added: “She was an amazing champion and a more amazing person. I feel privileged to have known her and send my best wishes to Jack (Waitz’s husband) at this sad time.”