Born: October 1, 1953. Died: April 19, 2011.
Grete Waitz, who has died aged 57 of cancer, was a Norwegian runner who won the London marathon twice, nine New York marathons and a silver Olympic medal.
A former Oslo schoolteacher, Mrs Waitz won her first New York Marathon in 1978, setting a world best in 2 hours, 32 minutes, 30 seconds in her first attempt at the distance. She went on to win eight more times, with her last victory coming in 1988. She won the London Marathon twice, in 1983 and 1986, the Stockholm Marathon in 1988 and earned five titles at the world cross-country championships from 1978-81 and 1983.
Mrs Waitz also won the gold medal in the marathon at the 1983 world championships in Helsinki, Finland. A year later, she took second behind Joan Benoit in the first women’s Olympic marathon in Los Angeles. She competed at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics in the 1500 meters, but missed the 1980 Moscow Games because of the American-led boycott.
Born in Oslo as Grete Andersen, she trained and raced in her youth at Oslo’s Bislett stadium, which raised a bronze statue in her honour in 1984.
She received numerous other awards and honours for her achievements on and off the track. In 2008, Norway’s king bestowed upon her the prestigious Order of St. Olav for being a role model for female athletes. Last year, she received the International Olympic Committee’s Women and Sport Award for Europe. She still holds the Norwegian records in the 1500 and 3000 metres.
She had never run a marathon when she started the New York race in October 1978. Her husband had talked her into trying, but after about 18 miles she regretted it. “I was hurting. I was mad. I was angry. I told Jack, never again,” she recalled in 2008.
She broke the world record three more times: In New York in 1979 and ‘80 and in London in ‘83.
Mrs Waitz started undergoing cancer treatment in 2005 but rarely discussed her condition in public.
She is survived by her husband Jack Waitz and her two brothers, Jan and Arild.
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