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This honour very special to me, says legend Waitz.

ONE of sport's most famous women will be one of the next people to be inducted into the Bupa Great North Run Hall of Fame.

The honour is to be granted to six surprise celebrities on Monday at the Hilton Hotel in Gateshead, as well as nine-time winner of the New York Marathon Grete Waitz.

Norwegian Grete, 54, who was born in the country's capital Oslo, won the third Great North Run in 1984 and claimed the title again in 1988.

She is so popular in her home nation that she has an annual race named after her, a statue of her stands outside the city's Bislett Stadium and there has also been a commemorative set of stamps created in her honour.

At 17 she set the European junior record for 1500m with a time of four minutes, 17 seconds, later winning a bronze medal at the European Championships in the event in 1974 and she has gone on to be one of the most revered distance runners the world has seen, and has encouraged more women to take up the sport over the years by offering health tips and advice. At her first attempt at the New York Marathon, Grete became the women's world record holder, shaving two minutes off her predecessor's time.

Today, Waitz, who is battling breast cancer, still runs in and organises corporate races and takes on charity work, particularly for Care International and the International Special Olympics. She has already been inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in the US. Her presentation will take place at Monday night's gala charity dinner, an event presented by former tennis ace and BBC TV broadcaster Sue Barker which will feature as guest speaker legendary rower James Cracknell, who finished in the top 200 of last year's Bupa Great North runners.

Speaking to The Journal from New York City before her arrival in the region, Grete said: "I'm very honoured to be able to receive this award and feel appreciated by the organisers of the Great North Run.

"The people of Tyneside appreciate good athletic performances, so to be nominated for this honour is very special to me.

"I have so many very good memories from my many visits to the area to compete in the Great North Run and I am very excited about returning next week to enjoy this very special event."

A spokesman for Nova International, which organises the run, said: "We are honoured to be welcoming Grete to the North East once again on this most auspicious of occasions. Both a pioneer and legend of women's long distance running, Grete started out at 800m and 1500m as a young girl and ended up as a multiple world champion and world record holder at marathon and cross country, so she is truly an inspiration deserving of a place in the Bupa Great North Run Hall of Fame."


CLOCKING UP MEMORIES In last year's Bupa Great North Run, participants cross the Tyne Bridge towards Gateshead.; SPECIAL GUEST Grete Waitz.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 5, 2008
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