31 January 2009

Every stride a victory

Tucked away behind, and to the left of, the stave church in Epcot’s Norway is a statue of a woman on the move. Her name is Grete Waitz, and she not only ran, but she moved, and continues to move, the world.

Waitz was born on 1 October 1953 in Oslo, Norway. At a time when women athletes were considered second class at best, she set out to be taken seriously as a professional athlete. She competed in the 1972, 1976, 1984, and 1988 Olympics, held in Munich, Montreal, Los Angeles, and Seoul, respectively. Though she competed with all of her heart, her only medal came in Los Angeles where Waitz produced a silver medal run in the Marathon. Remarkable in their own right, in Grete Waitz professional athletic career, the Olympics would take a back seat to the New York and London Marathons.

From 1978 through 1988, Waitz won the New York Marathon a total of nine times. In London, she won the Marathon twice, in 1983 and 1986. Through the combination of these two races Waitz took the woman’s marathon record, held by Christa Vahlensieck with a time of 2:34:47, down over nine minutes to 2:25:29 by the time she ran the London Marathon in 1983.

After retiring from professional running, Grete Waitz continued to break down barriers and build people up. She has worked with CARE International (an organization that seeks to address the underlying causes of poverty and empower women), JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge (a series of footraces meant to inspire fitness in the workplace), and the International Special Olympics.

Though Waitz has been honored with a half-marathon in New York, identified as Grete’s Great Gallop, a statue in front of Bislett Stadium in Oslo, immortalized on the face of a postage stamp, and has had the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, First Class, bestowed upon her, there is no recognition great enough to pay tribute to this woman who has worked so hard, for so long, so that the future would be brighter for so many. With her feet, spirit, and will she has given hope to those who had none and stood up for woman everywhere who wanted to feel the thrill of competition on a professional level.

1 comment:

Maz said...

Nice post. It's great to get the full details on this woman and statue. It came to our attention back in Jan when we did the Kim Possible Adventure. She was a clue in the adventure.

Thanks for the post.

Ed Mazzilli