Marathon great Grete Waitz dies of cancer at age 57

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Grete Waitz had never run 26.2 miles before she set a world record at the New York City Marathon in 1978. Her husband, Jack, had to talk her into even attempting the race, something the Norwegian runner said she regretted around the 18-mile mark.

“I was hurting. I was mad. I was angry,’ Waitz said in 2008. ‘I told Jack: ‘Never again.’ ‘

Waitz would go on to win the New York City event nine more times and set world records three more times. She died Tuesday at age 57 after battling cancer for six years.

A former Oslo schoolteacher, Waitz had competed in the 1972 and ’76 Olympics in the 1,500 meters. She took part in the first women’s Olympic marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles games and took the silver medal behind Joan Benoit.


“She will be remembered as one of the best marathon runners of her time,” International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said of Waitz, who won the gold medal in the marathon at the 1983 world championships in Helsinki, Finland.

Waitz also won the London Marathon twice and the Stockholm Marathon once, in addition to five titles at at the world cross-country championships. The International Track and Field Assn. called her “one of the brightest flames” of modern athletics.

“The dedication, perseverance and fortitude with which Grete carved out her athletics career on the track, across the country and on the road is an example to us all, as is the positive way she tackled the illness that beset her life in recent years,” International Assn. of Athletics Federations President Lamine Diack said.


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-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report.