Runner Grete Waitz Dies Norwegian marathoner Grete Waitz has died at age 57. NPR's Mike Pesca joins Michele Norris with this remembrance.
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Runner Grete Waitz Dies

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Runner Grete Waitz Dies

Runner Grete Waitz Dies

Runner Grete Waitz Dies

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Norwegian marathoner Grete Waitz has died at age 57. NPR's Mike Pesca joins Michele Norris with this remembrance.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Over the course of her career, Waitz enjoyed an especially strong association with the New York City Marathon. She won the race a record nine times. But the very first win nearly turned her off of marathons altogether. Here she is recalling what she told her husband at the finish line.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED VIDEO)

GRETE WAITZ: I was speaking Norwegian, saying a lot of bad things and screaming and yelling. And I took off my shoes, and I threw them at him. And I said never ever again am I going to run a marathon. I just want to go home.

NORRIS: Mike, how did Grete Waitz first come to run in the New York City Marathon?

MIKE PESCA: Shortly thereafter, they found out. The papers informed people. Her name was Grete Waitz, they said, rhymes with heights. But she won it in '79 when there were 11,000 starters.

Y: If - the Chicago Marathon was run the same day in '79. If she had run the same time in the Chicago Marathon, she would have come second overall, including all the men. She won it in '78, '79 and '80, and at that point in her career, she had run three marathons in her life, all the New York Marathon, and she had won every time.

NORRIS: Now, we mentioned nine wins. Her dominance of the New York City Marathon has never been matched. What was her secret?

PESCA: And all the obituaries today are going to say that she won nine out of 11 times. The 11th time, she'd really finished with racing, but she ran with Fred Lebow, who'd just gotten over - or was fighting brain cancer surgery, and they ran it in five hours. She could have run two marathons at her peak in that amount of time, but she held Lebow's hand across the finish line. It's one of the New York sports memories that will never be forgotten.

NORRIS: And the Olympics?

PESCA: In 1980, Norway was part of the Western boycott, and she did run in '72. She was a great runner at different distances. She was a great track runner, but except for the Olympics, she will definitely be remembered as one of the great distance runners of all time.

NORRIS: For Grete, the most important thing is still to win the race. Records, they can take away. Victories, they cannot. And that is as true today as it was then.

NORRIS: We don't have a lot of time, and I'm just curious. Did she inspire in some ways a generation of women runners?

PESCA: Oh, people would listen to the reports of her New York City Marathon, and the New York City Marathon gets more attention than any other marathon in the United States, and women really wanted to run because of what Grete Waitz did. And it was - definitely, she was a key part of the running boom.

NORRIS: Mike, always good to talk to you. Thanks so much.

PESCA: Bye.

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