Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Godspeed, Grete

I was sad to hear this morning about the death of marathoner Grete Waitz, at age 57.
New York is the kind of city where celebs and "little people" rub shoulders constantly, and so is also a city that warmly welcomes people who come here to make it. If they do make it, and make it big, we treat them like they were born here.
Waitz won eight NYC marathons, a record that is likely to hold its place forever alongside DiMaggio's 63 game hitting streak as one of the great sports achievements in our city. Her face was as familiar on TVs around the city as any mayor you can name, from Koch to Giuliani.
In leaving her footprints all along the streets of New York City, Waitz broke barriers for women as easily as she broke the tape at the finish line, from convincing her parents in Norway that a woman belonged in sport to placing second in the first Olympic women's marathon event, she helped women to break into sports and for women's marathoning to get the same coverage...indeed, sometimes better coverage...than the men.
I was fortunate to have run alongside Waitz in a short charity race in Manhattan, and spent a few moments chatting with her. She was gracious, charming and filled with enthusiasm and love for the sport of running.
Admittedly, I was huffing and puffing and she was running at a less-than-training pace, but it counts! I actually crossed the finish line ahead of her, not because I ran faster than she, but because her presence motivated me to try harder and to reach deep down and run.
Godspeed, Grete. Run now with the wings of an angel.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

- A. E. Housman "To an Athlete Dying Young"