20 miles into her first marathon she was not certain that she could even finish it. If there was anything certain to Grete Waitz at that moment, on a cold October morning, was that most definitely she would never run a marathon again. Yet she did in fact complete the race that day. The second half of her race would turn out to be faster than her first. She not only completed running her first New York city marathon in 1978, she broke the world record as well by running 2:32:30.
Her run that day in New York was unexpected to everyone including herself. She was a top notch Norwegian middle distance runner who had competed in races no longer than 3km. She had been invited to be a pace setter and add international flavor to an event that was just becoming popular. Sadly we lost this champion today at the age of 57. She inspired not only women athletes but distance runners of all kinds. She would go on to win the NYC marathon 9 times and was a friend to Sri Chinmoy and many of the activities he helped inspire.
Grete’s lesson that day in 1978 is familiar to all who run in multi day races. Not just in Flushing Meadow but everywhere runners try to push back the limitations they believe that are in front of them and holding them back. Few have the capacity to break world records but transcending oneself is another mater entirely. It can and should be a life long task. It is of course something that doesn’t necessarily give itself up freely. It must be worked and strived for.
Grete Waitz once said, “For every finish line tape a runner breaks–complete with the cheers of the crowd and the clicking of hundreds of cameras–there are the hours of hard and often lonely work that rarely gets talked about.”