No one can argue with the results. For the last three years, Waitz (rhymes with heights) has breezed into the U.S. every October and, with blond pigtails bouncing, run away with the New York Marathon. She set world records for women on all three occasions, lowering the mark by an astonishing nine minutes and six seconds (although her time of 2:25:42 is 17 minutes and eight seconds slower than the men's world record). When Grete first competed in 1978, she wasn't even listed on the program. Now, at 27, she is the premiere women's distance runner in the world. Her impressive career has helped the campaign to establish the women's marathon as an Olympic event. Women cannot race farther than 3,000 meters under present Olympic rules. Says Waitz, "There's no reason why women shouldn't run the same distances as men."
Running has forced Grete to take a leave from her $15,000-a-year job teaching physical education. "Having a teacher like me was not good for the kids," she explains. "I was away too much." Meanwhile she plans to sign on as a consultant with an Oslo sporting goods company. "That will combine better with running," she reasons.
Running has also interfered with Grete's plans for starting a family with Jack, her husband of five years. "I am very fond of children," she says, "but who would look after the baby while I was away?"
Grete Andersen was born in Oslo, where her father was a store clerk and her mother worked in a grocery. She started long-distance running at 12—"not that I think starting early is a sure way to success," she points out. "Talent is, of course, absolutely necessary."
Holder of six world records, Waitz has never lost a road race. To maintain her superiority, she trains year-round. "I have thought of settling somewhere warmer during the winter," she confesses, but Jack, an accountant for Norway's largest newspaper, would then have to change jobs. Once a promising runner himself, he quit to act as Grete's trainer and manager.
In 1981 Grete will race in Spain, Bermuda and Yugoslavia and, of course, will try to win her fourth straight New York Marathon. To some, Waitz' single-minded devotion may sound boring. She disagrees. "For me," she says, "running has become a way of life." And how fast will she ultimately run? "I don't know," she says. "I'm really not interested. I race to win, not to set records."
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