Grete Waitz (pronounced “vites”) was a marathon runner from Norway who won 9 NYC Marathons. She was also a very nice lady who once bought me a Coke.
My wife, Janet and I were waiting in the Brussels airport for our return to Chicago a few years ago. Janet asked me if I thought the thin woman pacing the around the gate area was Ms. Waitz.
Janet had worked in the running industry and was familiar with some of its stars. I don’t know anybody in sports unless they play baseball or football. But we had 2 hours to go and had read every word of that day’s International Herald Tribune twice. So I approached the running star and asked if it was really her.
She couldn’t have been more gracious. She smiled and thanked me for asking and pulled out a 4 x 6 photo of herself with a prominent Adidas logo on it. She was on a promotional tour for the sportswear manufacturer. She pulled out a Sharpie pen and autographed it.
I accepted it and thanked her and took it over to Janet.
A little while later, I got thirsty and went to a nearby Coke machine and fumbled through my pockets for for the correct change. You always try to spend your last Euro before you return to the US because you won’t be able to spend it over here. I came up a little short.
Ms Waitz, still pacing, noticed my frustration and came over and volunteered to buy me a Coke. We were a little embarassed and offered to reimburse her in US Dollars. She would have none of it. It was her pleasure. It was a gracious gesture that I will always remember.
Grete Waitz was not only a great athlete, but also a nice person. In my book, that’s more important.
Rest in Peace, Grete Waitz, one classy lady.