Grete Waitz, a Norwegian runner who won the NYC Marathon nine times, lost her hard-fought, six-year battle with cancer, passing away today in Oslo at the age of 57. Waitz won her first NYC Marathon in 1978, setting a world best in 2 hours, 32 minutes, 30 seconds in her first attempt. She went on to break the world record again in New York in 1979, 1980, and then in London in 1983. 1988 was the year she claimed her last win in New York.
But she was also victorious internationally, having won the London Marathon twice, in 1983 and '86, and earned five titles at the world cross-country championships from 1978-81 and 1983. She also won the gold medal in the marathon at the 1983 world championships in Helsinki, Finland. In 1984, she took second behind Joan Benoit in the first women's Olympic marathon.
Given her many amazing accomplishments, it's no wonder Waitz was regarded as an inspiration to many ...
Norwegian Athletics Federation president Svein Arne Hansen said:
Grete is in my eyes one of the greatest Norwegian athletes of all time. Not only through her performances in the sport, but also as a role model for women in sports.
Helle Aanesen, the manager of the Active Against Cancer Foundation in Norway, also said of Waitz:
She was a fantastic and immensely successful sports practitioner and also a role model and pioneer in women's sports. She showed that women too can run longer distances than 1,000 meters.
Although she was a trailblazer for women runners, it also seems as though she should be recognized as a legend among all runners. After all, she won more New York City Marathons than any runner -- male or female.
It's a tragedy that the world has lost such an accomplished athlete far too young. There's no doubt she will be remembered for years to come for her amazing talent, strength, and determination.
Image via Tony Duffy/Getty