Monday, 20 June 2011

Grete Waitz

Just before I left for New York at the end of April, I read the sad news that Grete Waitz had lost her long battle with cancer. Grete was a marathon-running legend and tirelessly raised funds, and awareness, for the cancer care foundation she started in 2007 (visit She was a marathon world champion, broke the world record on several occasions, and won the London Marathon twice (in 1983 and 1986) but she was perhaps most famous for her domination of the New York City Marathon during the 1980s. She won the event an incredible nine times (1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1988), a record which still stands.

27 April 2011: the Waldorf Astoria honours Grete Waitz

Waitz’s close association with the NYC Marathon began in 1978, when the race director, and co-founder, Fred Lebow, invited her to race. In her first outing, she not only won the women’s race, but finished over two minutes inside the world record, setting a new mark of 2 hours 32 minutes and 30 seconds. She would go on to break the world record in three consecutive New York outings. By the end of her running career, she had taken over nine minutes out of the world record. Her personal best came in London in 1986, when she ran an incredible 2 hours 24 minutes and 54 seconds.

Good to be back: running in Central Park, April 2011

On 1 November 1992, Waitz ran her last marathon. Fittingly, it was in New York, the scene of her greatest triumphs. She ran with her friend, Fred Lebow, the race director who had invited her run in New York back in 1978. They ran to celebrate Fred’s 60th birthday, after he was diagnosed with brain cancer two years earlier. They both crossed the line in 5 hours 32 minutes.

Launch of the 2011 ING New York City Marathon in Central Park

Fred lost his battle with cancer on 9 October 1994. Ten years later, the reverse of my 2004 NYC Marathon medal was a pictorial tribute to him. Each year, a statue of Fred is placed at the finish of the race in Central Park. The rest of the year, it takes pride of place on the east side of the Park and is passed by thousands of runners every day. As I ran past his statue in April, a marathon runner had placed their finisher’s medal in his hand. Having completed the New York City Marathon twice, I can tell you the massive effort and commitment that it takes. Consequently, finishers treasure their medals (my medal from 2009 is framed at my Mum and Dad’s house), so it tells you precisely how much Fred meant to his fellow runners that one would leave their medal to honour his memory. Similarly, as the New York City Road Runners launched the 2011 NYC Marathon in Central Park, the city mourned Grete Waitz’s passing on 19 April. As I arrived on Manhattan, the Waldorf Astoria was flying a Norwegian flag as a mark of respect. On 27 April, I felt part of something bigger, as my early morning run took me from my hotel on Lexington, past the Waldorf’s Norwegian flag on Park Avenue, alongside Fred Lebow’s statue in Central Park and on to Columbus Circle for the 2011 launch party.

If you’d like to show your support in the fight against cancer, please visit:

Christies -

Macmillan –



Barcelona, 1 March 2009
3 hrs 57 mins (new PB)
London, 26 April 2009 4 hrs 01 mins
San Francisco, 26 July 2009 3 hrs 43 mins (new PB)
Berlin, 20 September 2009 3 hrs 46 mins
New York, 1 November 2009 3 hrs 53 mins


Vancouver Marathon, 2 May 2010 3 hrs 31 mins (new PB)


Coniston 14 (14 miles), 28 March 2009
1 hr 48
Humber Half Marathon, 15 June 2009 1 hr 40 (new PB)
Congleton Half Marathon, 11 October 2009 1 hr 33 (new PB)

Christies is the charity which provides funds for, and supports, the work of the world renowned specialist cancer centre, The Christie, in Manchester (see Macmillan provides practical, medical, financial and emotional support for people affected by cancer and campaigns for better cancer care (see

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Rebecca Gilbert - Kids ( -

Marco Giannini – Christies –

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NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004