Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Goodbye Grete

This afternoon, I managed to turn down the volume on the excitement over Boston for just a moment. The ensuing silence, while sad, was filled with nostalgic respect. It was a reflection on the life and inspiration of Grete Waitz, who passed away this morning after a six year battle with cancer.

As a freshman on my high school cross country team, Grete Waitz was the source of one of my many nicknames, the only one that has followed me into adulthood. It was bestowed upon me by a senior varsity runner.

"Yeah, I think you're like Grete," she'd said, during an afternoon run through the orange groves.

I barely knew who Grete was, but you can bet I went straight home to dig through my copies of Runner's World and and read every last word about her. The nine-time NYC Marathon winner, who showed girls it was okay to be strong and fast, has been a role model ever since.

Amby Burfoot writes a beautiful tribute here.      

From his article:

"Grete had such a long, wonderful career that we all have hundreds of memories of her. When I close my eyes, I see her pigtails swishing rhythmically like a metronome as she churned up First Avenue in New York. I think I will always see those pigtails.

Grete Waitz was a pioneer, a pacesetter, a pathmaker. We cannot make too much of what she contributed to our sport. She gave and gave and gave, and asked nothing in return.
Or maybe just this: That we should treasure every mile."

And in tribute to Grete, I will try to remember to do just that.


  1. I had to tell Larry who she was. I couldn't believe someone would not know Grete. The story of her is fascinating and inspiring. I met Grete at the first More marathon in NYC. That was a highlight for me back then to still remember and mean now.

  2. Olga - How cool that you got to meet her! That would definitely be a highlight, absolutely. And, I had to explain to my husband who she was, too. ;)

  3. Very nice remembrance, and the origin of your Twitter alias. Grete and Ingrid Kristiansen were real touchstones in my early running years, more so than the male runners of the time.

  4. Hank - Thanks. It's really nice to hear that those women were just as inspiring to young male runners as to female.

  5. What a great nickname-sake to have. Some cyclists are said to have "class." It's meant to convey more than just their sportsmanship within the peloton; it's also an aesthetic comment. It's a compliment reserved for riders who are especially smooth and elegant ... beautiful. It's the term and specific connotation that will always come to mind when I think of Grete.

  6. This news really took me by surprise; for some reason I wasn't aware that she was fighting cancer for so long. I didn't fully appreciate her until her career was mostly over and I started reading stories about her retirement. She was one of the great ones for sure, and I can totally see how that name stuck with you. For what it's worth, you wear the nickname well.

  7. Stacy - Yes, it may sound like a big name to live up to, but to a 13-year-old just trying to hang on to the varsity girls, it was nothing but cool. And, I like your attribution of "class." Very fitting.

    Donald - Well, I read that she really wanted to remain private with the cancer, so it's not too surprising that you wouldn't be aware. And, thank you - that's very sweet.