This meant a lot to me and I'll tell you why:
Growing up in New Jersey, the New York City Marathon is a big deal from a telecast stand point. WABC TV devotes 5 hours to it's Sunday marathon telecast. In Charlotte, we may receive 1 hour from 2 to 3 pm which is fine.
From the mid-70's on, my brothers and I would would sit with my father (who is 81 and still comes in to Manhattan) in the TV room and watch the race unfold as it ran through the 5 boroughs of New York City. There are a lot of vivid memories that I have from those days including a brash Cuban from Wayland/Oregon who boldly predicted that he would break 2:10 in his first NYC Marathon...he ran 2:09!
Yet it was a Norwegian track runner who's last name was a contradiction in pronunciation for this 13 year old that grabbed our/mine/ and Jim McKay's attention. Grete Waitz (pronounced Veights: rhymes with Heights) won the NYC marathon 9 times and her name became synonymous with the race. Not unlike Paula Newby Fraser when you think of the Ironman!
In 1991, I dropped my friend off at the start of the race and right before he got out of the car he looked at me and said, "you're gonna do this race next year!" Having completed 12 triathlons all over the country that year, I thought no way. So I went home and watched it on TV and as I was watching it I said I was going to start training the next day. I trained the whole next year with the thought of breaking 2:40 for my first marathon goal. In the mean time Fred Lebow, the great mastermind behind the New York Road Runners and the Marathon, was battling brain cancer and wanted to run his race before he passed. He needed help. In comes his good friend Grete Waitz. She told him that she would run the race with him side by side after all that he had done for her. What a race:
Willie Mtola, a South African who's country's stance on Apartheid did not previously allow him to compete abroad, came to New York and won the race. Lisa Martin who married Yobes Ondieki won for the women. I hit 20 miles in 2 hours and 1 second and finished with a 42 minute 10k for a 2:42, yet the story of the day was Grete and Fred together for 5 and a half hours!
8 years before this historic day, history will show that Joan Benoit won the inaugural Women's Olympic marathon (they had been denied that opportunity because of what had transpired in Amsterdam in 1928). Joan made a break from the pack at 3 miles and ran alone the rest of the way. Why? Because everyone else was watching Grete and wondering when she was going make her move. On Tuesday of this week, she made her final move here on earth. She is in a better place...RIP Grete!