Legond Marthoner Grete Waitz Dies From Cancer At 57

Waitz finishing 2nd at 1984 Olympic Games

The marathon world is still celebrating the amazing times set  at Monday’s Boston Marathon by the Kenyan men. The NY Times reported the sad news that one of the legends of the Marathon , Norway’s Grete Waitz, has succumbed to cancer  at the age of 57.  Grete Waitz was  a former world record holder in the marathon, and nine-time winner of the NY City Marathon and silver medalist in the 1984 First Olympic Woman’s Marathon at the Los Angelos Games.

Grete Waitz, the Norwegian runner who won a record nine New York City Marathons starting with her first in October 1978, died Tuesday in Oslo. She was 57.

Waitz revealed in 2005 that she had cancer, without disclosing details. Her death was confirmed by her husband, Jack Waitz.

Waitz’s nine victories in the New York race is a mark that no woman or man has duplicated. Unassuming and yet fiercely confident, she inspired runners around the world and stayed involved in the running community even as she battled cancer.

“Grete was a great champion in life as well as in sport,” said Mary Wittenberg, president of the New York Road Runners and the marathon director. “We will forever celebrate Grete in our hearts and as an inspiration and role model for women’s running.”

Waitz (pronounced vites) was a geography teacher from Norway who came to New York for the first time with her husband. She came on a whim, for a chance to explore a new city, an opportunity to run a different kind of race.

Fred Lebow, the founder of the New York City Marathon, thought Waitz might be a good pacesetter, since she was a world-record holder in the 3,000 meters in track. She had never run more than 16 miles in a training run. Jack, who was her coach as well as her husband, knew that she could run more.

Grete Waitz did not come to set a pace. She not only won the 1978 New York race, but also set a world best, finishing in 2 hours 32 minutes 30 seconds — two minutes faster than the previous mark.

The only problem was when Waitz crossed the finish line, nobody knew the blond woman wearing Bib No. 1173.

The world, and the city, soon found out.

“Every sport should have a true champion like Grete, a woman with such dignity and humanity and modesty,” said George Hirsch, the chairman of the New York Road Runners, and a friend of hers since 1978. “New York adopted her as one of its true heroes, but unlike so many sports champions, Grete was down to earth. She was just happy to visit, blend in, talk to people, runners who came from all over the world always went right up to her. She just had time for everybody. She symbolized what was so great about what was so great about the community of marathoners.”

When Waitz won her first New York City Marathon, women’s distance running was far from widely accepted. The women’s marathon would not be added to the Olympics until 1984. But she did so well, her winning time in 1978 would have won the men’s race as recently as 1970.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won that first women’s Olympic marathon by beating Waitz, said Waitz was her inspiration.

“I just lost a dear friend and true competitor in every sense of the word,” Benoit Samuelson said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I lost a mentor and a role model as well.

“I think what will endure forever is the fact that she was able to balance a highly competitive career with the most gracious lifestyle and character that emanated good will throughout.”

In New York, Waitz’s victories became a ritual of autumn. She was presented each of her nine Samuel Rudin trophies by the Rudin family, the original business sponsors of the marathon.

“She was an icon, one of the greatest athletes of our century,” said Bill Rudin, fighting back tears as he recalled talking to Waitz at the start of last year’s race and introducing her to Edison Pena, the rescued Chilean miner who ran in it. “She was a class act, a real lady, who came back year after year in spite of her illness. She became a part of New York, a part of our family.”

Grete Andersen was born on Oct. 1, 1953, in Oslo, and grew up running in the woods near her house with her brothers, Jan and Arild. She is survived by her brothers and her husband.

She was just 18 when she competed in the women’s 1,500-meter race at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. She was eliminated in the first round, but her career as a competitive runner and pioneering athlete was just getting started.

She set the world record at 3,000 meters in the summer of 1975, but did not make the finals of the 1,500 at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Her chance at a third straight Olympics was foiled when Norway joined the American-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In 1984, suffering from back spasms, she finished second to Benoit Samuelson in the inaugural women’s Olympic marathon.

Waitz also won the London Marathon in 1983 and 1986. She also won the world cross country championships five times, including four straight from 1978 to 1981.

She won her last New York City Marathon title in 1988. Her most famous race in New York — which she considered her 10th victory — was the 1992 marathon, which she ran with Mr. Lebow, whose brain cancer at the time was in remission. The two crossed the finish line with their hands joined, their arms high. Lebow died in 1994.

“To me, the race of her life was the time she ran with Fred in New York,” Benoit Samuelson said. “That was a superlative effort on both of their parts.”

They finished in 5:32.34, an impossibly slow pace for a world champion marathoner, and Waitz said it was the hardest race she had ever run, and her most meaningful.

Recently, because of her health problems, Waitz sat in the pace car for the women’s race in New York. In Norway, Waitz established a foundation for cancer, Aktiv Mot Kreft, which sponsored runners in major races and supported activity centers at hospitals in Norway, much like the one in Oslo, where Waitz had received treatments.

“I am convinced you can go through a lot more when you are physically fit,” she said. “It is both physical and mental. With the athletic background, you think more on the positive side — you can do this.”

In 2006, Waitz met Lance Armstrong, the cancer survivor and cyclist who was running the New York City Marathon while on a brief retirement from cycling. Waitz said at the time that she hugged Armstrong and thanked him for all he had done for those stricken with cancer through his Livestrong Foundation.

“I was in the room when the two of them met, and it was incredible,” Rudin said. “Here were these two titans of sport relating to each other, not on a sports level but on a human level. She was asking for advice from him.”

Armstrong acknowledged Waitz’s death on his Twitter page “So sad to hear. She was a good friend and an incredible athlete.”


A Barefoot Ethiopian Conquers Rome

This video will make you think how lucky we are to have running shoes.   In some countries they run without shoes. Can you imagine running without shoes?  How about in the Olympics.  Imagine running a marathon without shoes.  The pounding of your feet on the pavement, with gravel for over 2 hours.

Born To Run-Kenyan

I have had the chance to meet some of the Kenyan runners in the Philadelphia area.  Some told us by Kenyan standards they where a “slow runner” but then would run the race and easily win the race.  One year I ran a 5k race in North Wales , PA.  At the water stop was a new runner to the United States running scene named Cathrine Nderiba. She was cheering on all the runners and giving  out water.  A few years later she won Boston for the second time. Watching this video will make you think about how hard they work to get out of poverty. The hard work in why Kenya is a power house in long distance running.

Ingrid Kristiansen

In 1982, elite runner Ingrid Kristiansen ran a 2:33 marathon.  For many this would be a good race but for her she wondered why it was slow.   While investigating why it was (for her) so slow, she discovered that she was four months pregnant. Four months after giving birth, she won the Houston Marathon in 2:27 and three months later set the women’s world record in the London Marathon in 2:21. Most would wonder how she didn’t know she was pregnant but this is not uncommon in highly trained athletes.

At  5’6″ and 106 pounds, she trained 100 hilly miles per week. This high level of training lead amenorrhea, the infrequent menstrual periods experienced by many gymnasts, ballet dancers and distance runners. For years she had been used to going months without a period. Thus, in 1983, she was ripe for the surprise of her life.

“In January I won the Houston Marathon,” says Kristiansen. “I thought I recovered well, but I got beat by some runners I really shouldn’t have lost to in 10-and 15-kilometer road races.” Then she finished 35th in the world cross-country race in Gateshead, England, an event in which she had been sixth the year before.

Kristiansen’s coach, Johan Kaggestad, was confused. “My wife said, ‘She must be pregnant. Ask her.’ It was Ingrid’s birthday and she was miserable, so I didn’t. But the next day on the plane I brought it up, and she laughed and said, ‘No, no.’ But I said maybe it would be good to take a test.” A week passed. “I answered the phone, and she was crying, not only that she was pregnant, but that she was five months pregnant.”

The tears were of shock, not dismay. She wanted a baby, but she wanted to run, too. Kristiansen trained as much as she could before the birth. “When she got so round she couldn’t run, she swam and biked and walked for hours,” said Kaggestad. In effect she had the luxury of a four-month pregnancy.

She finished fourth in the Woman’s Olympic Marathon in the 1984 Los Angeles Games.  Coming from Norway, where it is cold for months,  she was known for training on the treadmill.  She won several big marathons wins on her running resume  including New york, Chicago, Boston twice, London a record four times, Stockholm three times and Houston two times.

She started her athletic career  as a National ranked cross-country skier.  She was the European Juniors champion in 1974 and won eight Norwegian Championships in the relay.  This goes to show a person doesn’t have to start out as a runner to become a fast one.

26.2 Reasons To Run A Marathon

I remember  watching Joan Benoit- Samuelson run the 1984 Woman’s Olympic Marathon, after running my first season of  Jr. High school track.  I ran the mile and thought no way could I ever run that far.  After running for 17 years and having others asking why run a marathon I came up with a few reasons.  Have you ever thought about running a marathon?  If so here are 26.2 reasons to go for the challenge.

1.  Weight Loss – With all the running/training calories you will burn running, you are bound to lose weight.  That is if you also eat healthy and not all junk stuff.  If you are already at ideal weight training will help you maintain you weight especially during the Thanksgiving Christmas Holidays when you tend to eat lots of homemade goodies.

2.  Mental Freedom – Running can be your time to zone out.  When you are out running, there are no distractions, or demands being put on you.  If you have children this can be a good time for yourself.

3.  Physical Health –  You will improve your cardiovascular health which in turn will give you a longer and healthier life.

4.  Tones Legs – Running is a great way to tone your legs.

5.  Finishing Medal – you will a medal as long as you finish and only 1% of Americans have one to proudly display in your house.  Once I ran a marathon and started “hitting the wall” and thought about the medal I would get if I finished- it was a cool looking one!

6.  The T-shirt – this will be a shirt you can wear that tells the world you ran a marathon. Friends have told me when they started “hitting the wall” they remember the shirt and they didn’t want to wear it if they didn’t finish.

7.  The Photo – Most marathons have a professional photographer stationed on the course that takes pictures of all the runners.  Later you can purchase photos of yourself running to show everyone.

8.  Helping others – often marathons have a team in training program.  These programs help raise money for lots of  different organizations.  The biggest one is team in training for leukemia they help raise money to fight leukemia.  Knowing all the miles are helping someone else will help motivate you.

9.  You have something to look forward to – when you register for a marathon you have something exciting to look forward to.  As the day gets closer you will be anxious and excited. This is especially true if the marathon located some where you have never visited.

10.  Emotional release – Feeling Angry? Frustrated? Stressed? Go for a run and the problems will seem to melt away.  Long runs are great to help release stress.

11.  It’s a good conversation topic – When someone asks Monday at work what you did this weekend you can say “I ran 18 miles” This will be a lot more interesting than most people who relax and watch TV the entire weekend.

12.  Runners High – After running endorphins are released into your system giving you a “high” feeling.  You feel like you are on top of the world and nothing that comes your way will bother you.

13.  Your neighbor/ friends are not doing it – Be different from the ones you hang around with.  Less than 1% of Americans ever finish a marathon.  So if you do you will become one of  the few.

14.  You will love your body – If you have a poor body image and find everything to complain about, training for a marathon will give you a new respect for what the human body can do.

15.  Carbs are good – When you run long distance carbs  give you the  energy you need to keep running for hours at a time without stopping.  So eating then are not bad.

16.  Dieting – if you are training for a marathon you can get away with the one piece of cake for snack

17.  Boost your confidence and self-esteem – Running a marathon is an accomplishment and you will feel good about what you achieved.  It will give you confidence to tackle any other challenges that come your way.

18.  You can race against “the stars” – every year famous people run in the big marathons, you can see their race results and race against them.  For example Oprah Winfrey ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 4:29. Ready for the challenge!

19.  You are highly motivated and committed person – training and finishing a marathon takes both.

20.  Need structure? – running a marathon takes exactly that.  You have to do the training if you want to finish.

21.  Enjoy the outdoors – you will be spending lots of time outdoors.  You will get to know your surrounding better than the neighbors.  If the marathon you decide to run is in another state you will get to see that area as well.  You may want to take pictures during the marathon because you will see lots of things.

22.  To say you did  it – You can say you ran a marathon, this could mean something different for everyone.  Some runners just want to finish and others want to qualify for Boston.

23.  Making more time for yourself – Even if you train with others you are still making time for yourself.  Getting away form the grind of everyday life/work.

24.  Time with friends – if you are training with partners you will look forward to this adult time with other runners.

25.  Crossing the finish line – You will feel like you just won a gold medal.  You will have a range of emotions all at once pride, relief, and excitement.  You will be tired but to excited to actually feel it.

26.  Doing it again – I have heard runners say it is similar to having children.  As soon as you finish you can’t imagine going through all that again.  But later you get thinking about  running one again and before you know it you have finished another marathon.

0.2  – When you pass the 26 mile marker you realize that you are only .2 from the finish and you suddenly will get this burst of adrenaline.  You may have hit the wall or had times during the race that you doubted yourself but you mad it.  Wait a few weeks and you will think about doing this all again.  It gets addictive and you will want to run faster and see new places.

The Inspiring story of Sarah Reinertsen

When Sarah Reinertsen was a kid, she was told she’d never be able to run.In 2004  Reinertsen, at the time was 29, became the first female with a prosthetic leg to enter the Hawaii Ironman-which involves a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile run.

Sarah was the guest speaker of the  Runners World half marathon in Allentown, Pa.  My husband was coaching a group of runners called “Strides for Hope” from the area for the half marathon.  My daughters and I went to the race to cheer for the runners.  My daughters where 7 and 3 years old and were amazed by Sarah story she told at the pre-race dinner.  They could not believe someone was going to run with a “fake leg”.  We sat on the curb about half mile from the finish looking for her.  The girls sat intently looking for her  for about 30 minutes.  She was a little slower than expected for the race but as soon as my daughters saw her they started screaming her name.  My daughters and I were at the same hotel Sarah spoke at three years later, and they both remembered her story and the race.  I think having then watch her run made then realize how lucky they are.  They both run themselves now and have made comments about how hard it really is to run with a prosthetic leg.

Sarah Story- Sarah had her  left leg was amputated above the knee when she was 7  because of a tissue deficiency. She started running when she was 11, and in 1997 she completed her first marathon. After running six more-with a PR of 5:27:04-she started competing in triathlons. In 2003, she won the female leg-amputee division of the International Triathlon Union World Championships in New Zealand. “Athletics have given me the opportunity to prove that I’m just like everyone else,” she says. Reinertsen doesn’t wear a prosthetic to swim, so she has to hop out of the water and strap on her nine-pound running prosthetic to get to the transition area. There she switches to a prosthetic that has a bike cleat bolted to it. She has to change back to the running one for the marathon. Reinertsen, who lives in Solana Beach, California, works as a program manager at Challenged Athletes Foundation. “I want to help the disabled community break down barriers,” she says. “I love my life. I wouldn’t want to be any other way.”

Sarah story just goes to prove that running is a sport that anyone can do.

Ben Colmen An Inspiring Story For Any Athlete

Ben Colmen is a remarkable young man who has had lots of challenges during his life.  This young man just wanted to be on a “team”.  Ben has cerebral palsy.  He could not find a team that was willing to work with his limitations.  One day he found cross-country, started to run and now has won the hearts of his competitors.  Cross country is a sport that anyone can fit into.  You don’t always have to be the fastest runner on the team and this video will prove that.