Friday, April 22, 2011

Grete Waitz (1953 - 2011)

The day after the 115th running of the Boston Marathon, we lost a legend of the running world. The newspapers, television and running publications have posted their stories about the accomplishments of this lady. I would like to take this time to write about an encounter I had with Grete in 2007.

I was working with EMMI in Orlando and we were assisting the New York Roadrunners Club with the events surrounding the New York City Marathon. I had run NYC in 2005, but this year I was getting a behind the scenes look at part of the operation.

A group of us were at the expo, just passing time. I heard an announcement that Grete Waitz was going to be at the Adidas booth signing autographs. I made my way to the booth and saw upwards of 100 people lined up to see her. She sat smiling at the people who came by for the free autographed poster. I was amazed that no one was stopping to say "Hello" or engage her in conversation. Watching this process was like watching an assembly line stamping out widgets.

As those of you who know me, I am not shy. As my turn came to receive my poster, I extended my hand and introduced myself. She shook my hand and smiled. Before I could say anything she asked me if I was running the marathon the next day. I replied that I had run the Marine Corps Marathon the previous week so, I would not be running New York. Her response was, "you come back next year and we'll run together." Now I know she was kidding (or was she), but a very charming personality was on display. So many people had walked passed her without a word. We exchanged a few more comments and was ready to move on and let the people behind get their poster. As I was saying "good-bye", she reached under the table and took out a black Adidas ball cap. Picking up a silver colored "Sharpie", she autographed the hat and handed it to me. I shook her hand and wished her well as she encouraged me to keep running. Her closing comment was, "see you next year."

There was not a next year, there will not be a next year. I have one ball cap that I will cherish along with a memory of a very charming and gracious lady.


Ray, Jeri, and Terry said...

Well written, Well said, Jim

Donna N. said...

Well, once again you have moved me to tears. I don't think you have ever told me that story, but oh how wonderful. She always seemed like such a lovely person and now I know she is. Rest in peace gracious lady.

Runner's Anonymous said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is what I love about runners. Runners are generally very nice and personable people.....especially the elites! Not many sports that you can say that about. Stories like this never get old! You've shown me the hat.