Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Reaching New Distances: Nine-Time New York City Marathon Runner Grete Waitz Shares Her Perspective on Youth Fitness

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Reaching New Distances: Nine-Time New York City Marathon Runner Grete Waitz Shares Her Perspective on Youth Fitness

Article excerpt

When Grete Waitz entered her first marathon, she was 25 years old and had never run longer than 12 miles. But her entry into the New York City Marathon in November 1978 was a fluke. After being turned down initially because she had never run a full marathon, then president and race director Fred Lebow of the New York Road Runners (NYRR) Club asked her to run because he needed a fast female runner who could set the pace for the other participants; he never thought she would actually complete the race. Waitz proved her worth when she not only finished first among the females, but set the record of 2:32:29. She continued to finish first for an unprecedented nine times in the marathon, set the world record of 2:27:29 in 1979, and then beat that record with 2:25:41 in 1980. She also became the first woman to break 2:80:00 in the marathon. Besides New York, Waitz developed an international reputation as the five-time winner of the International Association of Athletics Federations" World Cross Country Championships and gold medal winner of its 1983 World Championship Marathon. She also took the silver medal in the 1984 Olympics Marathon. Since her retirement from professional racing in 1990, Waitz set her focus on promoting fitness among women and youth. And her relationship with NYRR changed from being a member to becoming chairperson in 1998 of its foundation, which establishes community-based fitness programs in New York lends its expertise toward programs nationwide.

Parks & Recreation: What do you enjoy most about your involvement with the National Road Runners Foundation's Work with children?

Grete Waitz: Being a runner almost all my life, and also schoolteacher for four years, I know first hand how important it is for kids to be involved in sports or some sort of physical activity. I get to meet the kids and run with them in practice and in races. …

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