It's hard to imagine now, but when I began long distance running (jogging) over 30 years ago, otherwise sensible people were still arguing that the activity might ruin my reproductive organs. Dr. Joan Ullyot's Women's Running told us we'd be more than alright; Ullyot herself was a successful local competitor.
But the woman who really put the women's marathon before the public was the Norwegian super star, Grete Waitz. Between 1978 and 1988, she won the women's division of the New York City Marathon nine times. She lowered the women's world record to the mid-2:20s. And she came across as hard-working and competitive certainly, but also sensible, normal and nice. For a generation of women who ran before the sport became either professional at the high end or a fundraising platform for worthy charities at the low end, Waitz was our inspiration.
She died of cancer this week at the age of 57; she is pictured here in 1992 with Fred Lebow, the founder of the New York City Marathon, who died of cancer in 1994.