A world-class track athlete turned marathoner, she put the sport on the map for women. Waitz won the New York City Marathon an earth-shattering nine times, consistently beating her own world records in the process. Her success showed that women could not only excel in long distance running, they could be extraordinary at it. Her career inspired, and continues to inspire, generations of athletes.
After retiring from marathon running, Waitz didn’t slow down. She became a coach, race organizer, charitable fundraiser, health and wellness advocate, and in 1998 the chair of the New York Road Runners Foundation, which today is known as Rising New York Road Runners and is celebrating 20 years of free youth running programs. Having been a school teacher before going pro, Waitz had a love for working with children. Not content to sit back and oversee from a distance, Waitz was right there working with the kids. She attended races, visited schools, wrote personal letters to students who reached out to her, and even arranged for the kids to meet the king and queen of Norway!
Her belief in the power of running, and her dedication to the children she worked with became some of NYRR’s core beliefs that guide the organization to this day.
Waitz’s commitment to others never stopped, even when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2005. Not just concerned with her own health, she founded the Aktiv mot Kreft (Active against Cancer) Foundation to help other people in the same fight as she was. Waitz passed away in 2011, but her legacy, and everything she worked for in her life are felt every day at NYRR, and especially today in Central Park.
Energy was high despite the drastic dip in temperature from the weeks leading up to the day, autumn finally making its first appearance at an NYRR race.
Aduna Lelisa Gemechu broke the tape for the men with a time of 32:01, while Rebeka Stowe was all smiles as she broke the tape for the women in 35:47.
In honor of one of Waitz's first and biggest accomplishments, breaking the world record at her first ever marathon in 1978, some of today's runners relived their first races with NYRR staff.
#Didyouknow? Grete Waitz set a marathon world record in New York in 1978. It was her first marathon and she’d never run more than 12 miles in training. 😱 This morning, we asked #GretesGreatGallop runners to share what they remember from their first race. Do you remember your first race? Share with us in the comments!
As the morning drew to a close, runners enjoyed post-race celebrations of their accomplishment in the park. With every runner that crossed the finish line Waitz’s legacy grew just a little more, her memory touching every staff member, volunteer, and runner who participated in the day.
Check out more NYRR races through the end of 2019 and stay tuned later this week for the launch of races in January through April 2020.