(1953 - )

Winner of a silver medal, 1984 Olympics
Nine-time winner of New York City Marathon

 

GRETE WAITZ donned her first pair of track shoes at a time when female athletes were not taken seriously, given equal opportunities or supported. As a teen in Oslo, Norway, she was too young to realize how much discrimination prevailed in sports she was merely too busy trying to get to the next race. She constantly fought with her family to get to local races since her brothers were seen as the athletes and Waitz as a young girl who ought to watch them from the sidelines. It wasn't until 1970 when Waitz began competing on an international level that she received any firm support from her parents.

Two years later, Waitz was part of an Olympic first the first time that women were allowed to participate in the 1500-meter distance at the Olympic Games in Munich. Waitz received a lot of encouragement from her male counterparts at the Munich games and continued to train seriously. However, to safeguard her future, she began attending a teachers college in Norway and trained twice a day running an average of 75 miles per week.

In 1975, Waitz was one of the first women to run the 3000 meters in competitive races. She broke the world record twice that year for the 3000 meter distance and for the first time realized that she was part of a revolution that tried to attain equality for female athletes.

In the late '70s, Waitz started running longer distances and entered her first marathon in 1978 in New York City. Although she had never run more than 13 miles, she not only won this marathon but also set a world record in the process. Through the years, Waitz has returned to New York City again and again to shatter world records and establish an unsurpassed tradition in women's long distance running. However, in the late '70s her mind was set on competing in her third Olympics, so Waitz was extremely upset to learn that Norway was one of the countries boycotting the 1980 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Instead, Waitz used her time to refocus her energies to training. She quit working as a teacher and relied on running to sustain her since prize money now became a standard at most world-class events.

In 1984, she finally realized a long-time dream when she not only ran the Olympic Marathon the first time it was offered for women, but she earned a silver medal in the effort. She went on to set four world records in the event after breaking the two-hour, thirty-minute mark.

Waitz is a nine-time winner of the New York City Marathon, five-time winner of the World Cross-country Championships and a Gold Medal winner of the 1983 World Championship Marathon in Helsinki. Since her retirement from competitive running, Waitz has become an accomplished author and global health and fitness advocate. In addition, she has done a variety of charity work on behalf of CARE International and the International Special Olympics, among others.


2002, Avon Products, Inc

Reprinted by permission of Avon, for which Grete Waitz acts as a spokesperson.


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