Tuesday, 19 April 2011
Grete Waitz, gone but never to be forgotten.
Grete won the London marathon twice, the New York 9 times and won a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics. Plus a world championship gold in Helsinki in 1983.
It was that year that she provided the platform for me to run my marathon best in London. I had the great fortune of rejoining the race after a pit stop just as she passed with a posse of a dozen , mainly UK club runners, pushing hard at the 16 mile point towards a marathon world record. A posse which tried to cling to her at she strode on relentlessly, cheered on by the watching crowds. But one by one they fell off her unremitting pace until there were just the two of us. As we reached the narrow section of the course along the embankment the crowd were within yards of us on either side and I shall never forget the unbelievable roar from the masses on the sidelines. Adrenalin was gushing from every pore!
They sensed that Grete was on for a world record. Sharing her limelight and the fantastic
support of the crowd lifted me equally to the greatest running high of my career. Unbelievable, unforgettable.
We finished on Westminster Bridge, having run down the mall, opposite to the current finish.
As we reached the bridge, with probably a few hundred yards left, race director JOHN DISLEY,
parted us, directing Grete over towards the ladies finish. I could see the finish clock ahead. It clicked over to 2:25. Thanks to Grete I had been elevated to a PB by over 4 minutes. I recall a huge beam coming over my face. A final look at my watch confirms I'll be well under 2;26 and I finally let her go , easing over the line as she continued to sprint away to on her side of the course.
She ran 2:25.29 (finishing 198th) to my 2:25.35 (200th). Times which would have seen us around 40th place in 2011. Unfortunately, she held the world record for just one day as Joan Benoit broke it the next day in Boston. Nevertheless, her record places her as one of the most significant athletes in womens marathon running.
If you care to view the last minute of her (our) 1983 London Marathon go to BBC SPORT...CLICK ON ATHLETICS......click on video of 1983 London marathon.
So thank you Grete. I am indebted to you for your inspiration that day April 17th in 1983.