40 greatest female athletes: Grete Waitz

May, 16, 2012
5/16/12
2:49
PM ET
Grete WaitzDavid Madison/Getty ImagesGrete Waitz was one of the most versatile and accomplished female distance runners in history.

ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.

When Grete Waitz finished her first marathon in world-record time, she vowed it would be her last.

But the Norwegian with the blond pigtails, who is No. 28 in ESPN's countdown, ended up winning the New York City Marathon nine times, including that debut in 1978, and became the first world-class female marathoner.

In addition to her incredible determination, Waitz had a generous spirit that manifested itself in her charity work and in the "Active Against Cancer" foundation she established in her native country following her own diagnosis in 2005. When she died in 2011, at the age of 57, she was mourned in Norway, where she was a national hero, and also in New York.

Read the complete story from espnW here.

Earlier in this series:
No. 40: Diver Fu Mingxia
No. 39: Jockey Julie Krone
No. 38: Gymnast Mary Lou Retton
No. 37: Hockey player Cammi Granato
No. 36: Soccer player Kristine Lilly
No. 35: Basketball player Diana Taurasi
No 34: Volleyball player Flo Hyman
No. 33: Soccer player Abby Wambach
No. 32: Swimmer Mary T. Meagher
No. 31: Marathoner Joan Benoit
No. 30: Sprinter Gail Devers
No. 29: Basketball player Nancy Lieberman

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