The pair will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame next week.
The poignant run of Fred Lebow and Grete Waitz in 1992 cemented the pair’s place in New York City Marathon history. His cancer in remission, Lebow was determined to once more run his race, with Waitz at his side in support every step of the way. They finished in 5 hours, 32 minutes and 34 seconds, crossing the finish line hand-in-hand; their moment remains one of the most memorable and emotional scenes in all of road racing.
So it is only fitting that New York City Marathon impresario Fred Lebow and nine-time champion Grete Waitz will be inducted posthumously into the NYRR Hall of Fame as its inaugural class, it was announced by New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg.
The pair will be officially inducted and have their Hall of Fame banners raised at the ING New York City Marathon finish line in Central Park at the Marathon Opening Ceremony on Friday evening, November 4. The Opening Ceremony will also feature the Parade of Nations, and is open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Hall of Fame ceremony will become an annual part of race week festivities, with plans to line the final stretch of the race with banners of the inductees, according to Wittenberg.
“Today is just the first step in honoring all of the legendary figures who, through their triumph and contributions, have made NYRR and the Marathon what they are today,” said Wittenberg. “It is only proper that we begin by saluting these two towering legends of NYRR and our sport who are forever linked, most memorably at the 1992 race when Grete accompanied Fred on his emotional run through the city.”
“Fred and Grete. You say one, you immediately think of the other,” said Wittenberg.
Allan Steinfeld will represent Lebow and Waitz’s husband, Jack, will appear on her behalf at the induction ceremony.
Lebow, who died of brain cancer in 1994, was born Fischel Lebowitz in 1932 in Arad, a town in the Transylvania region of Romania, and arrived in the United States in the 1960s. In 1970 he co-directed the first New York City Marathon, which was held entirely in Central Park with 127 entrants and 55 finishers. Through the next two decades, Lebow shaped the race into a five-borough extravaganza that by the time of his death featured 31,129 starters.
Best known for his charismatic leadership of the marathon, Lebow also helped to develop a roster of unique events, including the NYRR New York Mini 10K, the first all-women’s distance race; the Fifth Avenue Mile; the Empire State Building Run-Up; and the New York Games.
Steinfeld was for many years Lebow’s most senior colleague. He succeeded Lebow as NYRR president in 1992 and as CEO and marathon race director in 1994.
“Fred would be baffled as to why he was being honored by his own organization, even if he did make it the pre-eminent running organization in the world with the most widely acclaimed marathon,” said Steinfeld.
Waitz was born Grete Andersen in Oslo in 1953. A five-time World Cross Country Champion and world record-holder at 3000 meters, Waitz was ranked #1 in the world in 1975 at both 1500 and 3000 meters, but the pigtailed Norwegian became the face of the New York City Marathon from the moment she broke the tape for the first time in 1978 in world-record time. She would go on to win the race a record nine times (1978-1980, 1982-1986, 1988).
Out of the spotlight, Waitz worked with NYRR Youth and Community Services to champion youth running programs in New York City Schools. She died on April 19, 2011, of cancer at the age of 57.
“Grete was the New York City Marathon and the New York City Marathon was Grete,” said Jack Waitz, who plans to run the ING New York City Marathon this year. “From the first time Grete ran through the streets in the 1978 marathon, to what she called her 10th and final ‘victory’ running the Marathon with Fred Lebow in 1992, Grete embodied the race and the city.”