Run, Grete, Run…

April 30, 2011

Photo courtesy Ryan Wilson from the Main Street Gazette

Near the Stave Church in the Norway Pavilion in Epcot is a statue of an athletic, barefooted, running female figure. If you’ve been there you’ve probably passed by, and maybe mostly ignored, this homage to a woman who is considered one of the greatest athletes ever to have come from this Scandinavian country.

Grete Waitz won an astounding nine New York City Marathons, an Olympic Silver Medal (coming in second to another running great, Joan Benoit, in the first women’s Olympic Marathon) among many other titles. She held the women’s Marathon World Record three times.

Her statue runs in the same direction thousands of runners have taken around the World Showcase as they complete 26.2 miles in the Disney Marathon.

In a local connection – the Eating (and Drinking) around the World kitchens being in the Tampa Bay area  –  she was a legend at the Gasparilla Distance Classic, having won the 15K a record six times and setting a World Record (48:01) along Bayshore Boulevard in 1980.

On April 19, 2011, Grete passed away after a six-year battle with cancer at the age of 57.

A private person about her personal life, the type of cancer has not been disclosed.

We have all had our lives affected to one extent or another by the horrible disease that is cancer. That such a great, strong athlete can be taken down at such an early age just emphasizes how insidious this affliction is.

Take this moment to think about those we have lost to cancer, those who are currently battling it, and celebrate those who have beaten it. If so inclined, make a donation to a charitable organization devoted to finding a cure (in the Disney community, Deb Wills of, is a tireless fundraiser for breast cancer research, you can find out more here).

Next time you’re in Epcot, take the time to stop and pay your respects to the memory of a great athlete – and to think of all those dealing (directly or indirectly) with cancer.

Keep running Grete…

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