Today I found out, a little late as it were, that one of my main running inspirations Grete Waitz lost her battle with cancer at age 57. The day after Boston marathon nonetheless, I can’t quite decide if this is sad or uplifting. Marathon was the distance that made Grete Waitz famous, NY not Boston but more on that later, and I would like to think that she would think it a positive.
I think that as a Norwegian Grete Waitz is a name that you can’t avoid hearing, she was beyond doubt one of our most accomplished and successful athletes. Only now am I starting to realise just how impressive her record is, come on she won the New York Marathon 9 (NINE) times! That is still a record, she also ran into a new world record on her first ever marathon. However the reason that everybody knows about her back home is not just for her athletic merit, but for her tireless work as an advocate for running as a sport and as a way to stay fit. Oslo Marathon would definitely not be the same without her involvement, and I am sad that she will not be a part of it this year when I finally participate myself. (Only in the half, but still)
There is another reason that I personally have heard about Grete Waitz most of my life… She went to the same school as my aunt, and although they were not in the same class they had the same PE teacher. The story of how the PE teacher would tell them all on the run (you know what I mean, every school have one…) when they were all struggling along and trying to do their best: “Grete, passed here 10 minutes ago…” Oh yes just what you want to hear! However I have found this oddly inspiring in a way, I will never be as fast as her, but then the message she tried to get across with the now defunct Grete Waitz run and her newsletters for Oslo Marathon, is that everybody can and it is not about how fast you are, it is the fact that you are doing it!
That I am, and I am now more determined than ever to run the New York Marathon one day. I haven’t mentioned it on here before, but I did enter the lottery for a place this year. I do not expect to get a place, it would be lovely if I did, however if you lose in the draw 3 years in a row you’ve got a guaranteed place. So I thought I better start losing, and I bet you can guess what will inspire me through the training. If Grete Waitz could run all the way through chemotherapy then I can run through a little rain or drowsiness…
“I always say she’s the queen of the road, but she doesn’t behave like a monarch.”
Fred Lebow, founder of the New York marathon
Do read the obituary in the New York Times, it is a great homage to her and much better written than I can ever hope to achieve.