13/06/2011 § Leave a comment
This weekend, I got myself up extra early on Saturday morning to run the 40th annual New York Mini 10k in Central Park, my first road race since running the New York Marathon in November. Joined by more than 5,000 women, the experience was not only personally rewarding (I was satisfied with my performance, even though I did not seriously train) but quite unique. I hadn’t ever participated in a women-only race, and running alongside women of all ages, shapes, sizes, colors and running styles on the 6.2 mile course was an amazing feeling. The winner was Linet Masai of Kenya, who finished the course with a time of 31:40. I came in second. Just kidding.
The Mini 10K debuted in 1972, founded by New York running guru Fred Lebow (who also founded the New York Marathon), as the first strictly women-only race. The race was held this year in honor of Norwegian marathon legend and 5-time Mini winner Grete Waitz.
I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with Grete’s story until after the race, where I noticed many of the runners and supporters wearing shirts that said they were “running this one for Grete.” Grete Waitz was truly a ground-breaking athlete and I am quite in awe of her story. Not only because of her amazing athletic achievements, but mainly because Grete ran at a time when female athletes were not as well-funded and supported as they are today and when female marathon runners were a distinct minority.
A highly decorated runner, Grete won races and broke records all over the world. The first time she ran the New York City Marathon (in 1978), she won it and broke the world record — and then went on to win it 8 more times after that. Grete advanced women’s long distance running through her excellence on the road and her dedication behind the scenes after she retired from competitive running.
Grete died of cancer in April of this year and was given a state funeral in her native Norway, only the sixth Norwegian woman so honored. Her husband, Jack, honored her memory by running the 10k this Saturday (after visiting a deli for breakfast — their tradition when visiting New York).