1980 – Grete Waitz

26-Oct-1980 – New York City Marathon – 2:25:41.3 – Adidas Marathon 80
Date of birth: 1-Oct-1953 (died 19-Apr-2011 – aged 57)
Nationality: Norwegian

The athlete:                
As Norway was one of many nations boycotting the 1980 Olympics, the New York City Marathon would be the major event for Waitz that year. She started strongly, with Patti Catalano Dillon as her main competition. The American star grabbed the lead early, but eased off after hearing that her pace for the first five miles was too fast to sustain.

Waitz took back the lead and never let it go. Articles said she looked calm at the halfway point, well on track to break the world record. Waitz said she wasn’t calmer, only cooler. Cramps developed in her left thigh with six miles left, with Waitz shifting her focus to winning, but she rallied when saw at 23 miles that she could still potentially set the new world record.

She would beat her personal best by nearly two minutes, finishing 74th overall in the field. Without taking away from this incredible achievement, but the course which Waitz ran was remeasured in 1985 and found to be short. I wrote an article about this issue for this website, which you can read here. World Athletics only however invalidated performances from the 1981 New York City Marathon.

Because it was the same course used for the 1980 event as well, the Association of Road Racing Statisticians does not consider it to have been the world record unlike World Athletics. The ARRS are an independent group created years later by many former racing officials and supported by researchers from across the world. I agree with the logic of the ARRS, although none of these matters diminish what Waitz achieved. If you want to find out about her later exploits click here.

The shoes:                   

Adidas put it succinctly, featuring the Adidas Marathon 80 alongside the line ‘Grete’s Business Shoes’. The blue and yellow runners, which you can read more about here, were still more than enough for Waitz to dominate the marathons she entered. The Marathon 80 held the distinction of holding the men’s marathon world record on the feet of Gerard Nijboer. Waitz would go on to wear several other Adidas models, including the Atlanta with which she set the marathon world record in 1983. You can find out more about that here.