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1983 World Championships in Athletics – Women's marathon

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Women's marathon
at the 1983 World Championships
The marathon started and finished at the Olympic Stadium
VenueHelsinki Olympic Stadium
Date7 August 1983
Competitors63 from 31 nations
Winning time2:28:09
gold medal    Norway
silver medal    United States
bronze medal    Soviet Union
1987 →

The women's marathon was one of the road events at the 1983 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki, Finland. It took place on 7 August 1983, starting and finishing at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium. The race was won by Norway's Grete Waitz in 2:28:09, ahead of Marianne Dickerson of the United States in second and the Soviet Union's Raisa Smekhnova in third.

In warm conditions, Rumiko Kaneko of Japan and Ireland's Carey May led in the early stages, before Jacqueline Gareau of Canada took over, trailed by a pack of runners which included two of the favourites, Waitz and Julie Brown. Ireland's Regina Joyce took the lead by the 12-mile (19 km) point, and opened a gap of around 30 seconds ahead of the chasing group. After 19 miles (31 km), she was caught by a group led by Waitz, who was increasing the pace of the race. Gradually those running with her dropped back, leaving her to win the race by three minutes. Smekhnova was just ahead of Dickerson when they entered the stadium, but was passed by the American in a sprint finish.


The women's marathon was not an established event at international level. It had not featured in the Olympic Games, and had only become popular during the 1970s. Historically, some experts claimed that running the marathon distance, 26 miles 385 yards (42.195 km), was dangerous for women's health. As it gained prominence through the 1970s, there were calls for it to be added to the Olympics, though there was significant opposition. The governing body for athletics, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF, now World Athletics) announced that it would be added to the programme for the inaugural World Championships in Athletics in 1983,[1] making it the first global championships to feature a women's marathon.[2][a]

In 1983, an American runner, Joan Benoit, established a new fastest time for the women's marathon, when she ran 2:22:43 at the 1983 Boston Marathon; cutting almost three minutes off the previous fastest time, held jointly by Allison Roe of New Zealand and Norway's Grete Waitz. Of the three, only Waitz was taking part in the World Championships:[3] Benoit did not run in the Avon International Marathon in Los Angeles, which the United States used as a qualifying race, choosing to focus on shorter distances instead.[4] In Benoit's absence, The Observer and The Times described Waitz as the favourite for the race.[5][6] The American press rated Julie Brown as their best chance of victory in the race; writing in the Hartford Courant, Amby Burfoot said that despite the fact Waitz had beaten Brown in their previous meetings, Brown had "recently brought a new maturity to her road racing".[7][8]

The race started at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium, and moved onto the streets of Helsinki, following an undulating course that Brown suggested would prevent fast times.[9] The course passed Helsinki's docks, looped around the shore road, and past Market Square. After looping through downtown Helsinki, they returned to the stadium along the same route, to finish on the track.[9][10]


The race started at 15:05 local time on 7 August 1983,[9] the opening day of the Championships,[11] in clear, dry conditions, with temperatures of around 21 °C (70 °F).[9] Early on, Japan's Rumiko Kaneko and Ireland's Carey May led, passing the 3.1 miles (5 km) mark in 18:14.[12] Canada's Jacqueline Gareau then established a small lead, passing the 6.2-mile (10 km) mark in 36:13, around 20 yards (18 m) ahead of a pack which included: Waitz of Norway; all three United States runners, Marianne Dickerson, Debbie Eide and Brown; Rosa Mota of Portugal; Italy's Laura Fogli and May from Ireland. Two miles (3.2 km) later, Gareau still led, and the pack behind her had grown to include 13 runners. David Miller, a journalist for The Times, criticised her inexperience in pressing ahead too early, but Gareau said it was the only way she could secure a good finishing position.[10] Her lead, which peaked at around 30 seconds,[13] was eroded and she was passed by Ireland's Regina Joyce between 10 and 12 miles (16 and 19 km) into the race.[14] Waitz asked Brown if she thought they should go with her, but Brown said no: "She'll come back to us".[9]

Joyce, who had also opened up a lead of 30 seconds at one stage,[13] led the race until the 19-mile (31 km) mark,[14] when a surge from Waitz broke up the chasing group, and she led a smaller pack of five runners at the front. Along with Waitz were two Soviet athletes, Lyutsia Belyayeva and Raisa Smekhnova, Dickerson and Joyce.[10] Running into the wind, they formed a single-file procession behind Waitz.[9] Two miles (3.2 km) later, Waitz was clear at the front;[14] Smekhnova had tried to stay with her for as long as possible, but Waitz continued to extend her lead.[13] Brown was unable to match the leaders' pace from around the 20-mile (32 km) stage due to an Achilles injury, and dropped out of the race completely three miles later.[9] Behind, Joyce had dropped out of medal contention when she had to stop for a toilet break, leaving Dickerson to vie with Smekhnova for second place.[10] The American athlete was around 130 yards (120 m) behind Smekhnova with 3.2 miles (5.1 km) of the race remaining,[10] but was closing the gap. Waitz won the race in 2:28:09, and had time to complete a victory lap before Smekhnova narrowly led Dickerson as they entered the stadium. Dickerson had enough energy left for a sprint finish, and passed Smekhnova on the bend of the track, and finished second in 2:31:09, exactly three minutes behind Weitz, and four seconds ahead of Smekhnova, who claimed the bronze medal. Mota finished in fourth, while the early race leader, Gareau, placed fifth.[15] Waitz, who was running her first female-only race, said that the makeup of the race changed her tactics significantly, as there were not men around her to share the pacing responsibilities: "Here, the final time didn't really matter. The idea was to win the Championship."[9]


Rank Name Nationality Time Notes
1st place, gold medalist(s) Grete Waitz  Norway (NOR) 2:28:09
2nd place, silver medalist(s) Marianne Dickerson  United States (USA) 2:31:09
3rd place, bronze medalist(s) Raisa Smekhnova  Soviet Union (URS) 2:31:13 NR
4 Rosa Mota  Portugal (POR) 2:31:50
5 Jacqueline Gareau  Canada (CAN) 2:32:35
6 Laura Fogli  Italy (ITA) 2:33:31
7 Regina Joyce  Ireland (IRL) 2:33:52
8 Tuija Toivonen  Finland (FIN) 2:34:14 NR
9 Joyce Smith  Great Britain & N.I. (GBR) 2:34:27
10 Lyutsia Belyayeva  Soviet Union (URS) 2:34:44
11 Rita Marchisio  Italy (ITA) 2:35:08
12 Debbie Eide  United States (USA) 2:36:17
13 Carey May  Ireland (IRL) 2:36:28
14 Glenys Quick  New Zealand (NZL) 2:37:14
15 Monika Lövenich  West Germany (FRG) 2:39:19
16 Marja Vartiainen  Finland (FIN) 2:39:22
17 Carla Beurskens  Netherlands (NED) 2:39:25
18 Karolina Szabó  Hungary (HUN) 2:40:23
19 Christa Vahlensieck  West Germany (FRG) 2:40:43
20 Magda Ilands  Belgium (BEL) 2:40:52
21 Cindy Hamilton  Canada (CAN) 2:41:27
22 Kathryn Binns  Great Britain & N.I. (GBR) 2:42:12
23 Zoya Ivanova  Soviet Union (URS) 2:43:27
24 Ngaire Drake  New Zealand (NZL) 2:43:51
25 Jill Colwell  Australia (AUS) 2:45:07
26 Jackie Turney  Australia (AUS) 2:45:43
27 Sinikka Keskitalo  Finland (FIN) 2:46:10
28 Dorothy Goertzen  Canada (CAN) 2:46:38
29 Kersti Jacobsen  Denmark (DEN) 2:46:48
30 Ilona Zsilak  Hungary (HUN) 2:46:48
31 Mieko Tajima  Japan (JPN) 2:47:10
32 Tuulikki Raisanen  Sweden (SWE) 2:47:29
33 Jarmila Urbanova  Czechoslovakia (TCH) 2:48:28
34 Mary O'Connor  New Zealand (NZL) 2:48:44
35 Yuko Gordon  Hong Kong (HKG) 2:48:51
36 Zehava Shmueli  Israel (ISR) 2:49:07
37 Mette Holm-Hansen  Denmark (DEN) 2:49:43
37 Lone Dybdahl  Denmark (DEN) 2:49:43
39 Megan Sloane  Australia (AUS) 2:51:11
40 Elizabeth Oberli-Schuh  Venezuela (VEN) 2:51:30
41 Evy Palm  Sweden (SWE) 2:51:49
42 Heidi Jacobsen  Norway (NOR) 2:52:51
43 Midde Hamrin  Sweden (SWE) 2:52:53
44 Deirdre Foreman-Nagle  Ireland (IRL) 2:53:07
45 Iciar Martínez  Spain (ESP) 2:53:24
46 Rita Borralho  Portugal (POR) 2:53:41
47 Oddrun Hovsengen  Norway (NOR) 2:54:04
48 Maria-Luisa Ronquillo  Mexico (MEX) 2:56:33
49 Rumiko Kaneko  Japan (JPN) 2:58:53
50 Son Yong-Hi  North Korea (PRK) 2:59:10
51 Kim Myong-Suk  North Korea (PRK) 3:12:41
Julie Brown  United States (USA) DNF
Yueh-Mei Kao  Chinese Taipei (TPE)
Wu Jinmei  China (CHN)
Kandasamy Jayamani  Singapore (SIN)
Chantal Langlacé  France (FRA)
Yupin Lohachart  Thailand (THA)
Alba Milana  Italy (ITA)
Charlotte Teske  West Germany (FRG)
Marie-Christine Deurbroeck  Belgium (BEL) DNS
Glynis Penny  Great Britain & N.I. (GBR)
Chu Winnie Ng Lai  Hong Kong (HKG)
Amy Cesaretti  San Marino (SMR)

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Lovett, Charles (1997). Olympic Marathon: A Centennial History of the Games' Most Storied Race. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger. pp. 125–129. ISBN 978-0-2759-5771-1.
  2. ^ a b "World Championships: Women's marathon". Athletics Weekly. 26 July 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
  3. ^ Wilkinson, Jack (3 July 1983). "Great Grete". The Atlanta Constitution. p. 6C – via
  4. ^ Levin, Richard (2 June 1983). "The marathon women". The San Francisco Examiner. p. F5 – via
  5. ^ "Race to the top of the world". The Observer. 7 August 1983. p. 35 – via
  6. ^ "Favourites for medals". The Times. 5 August 1983. p. 8 – via Gale.
  7. ^ Burfoot, Amby (6 August 1983). "Events at Helsinki May Outshine L.A." Hartford Courant. p. C6 – via
  8. ^ Concannon, Joe (7 August 1983). "Olympics taking back seat to World Championships?". The Boston Globe. p. 48 – via
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Moore, Kenny (15 August 1983). "Splendor and Agony in Helsinki". Sports Illustrated. pp. 25–29. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d e Miller, David (8 August 1983). "How the world greeted the crowning of Grete the great". The Times. p. 22 – via Gale.
  11. ^ "Timetable-by-Day: 1st IAAF World Championships in Athletics". World Athletics. Retrieved 2 July 2020.
  12. ^ "Waitz wins marathon; Juantorena hurt". The Baltimore Sun. 8 August 1983. p. B4 – via
  13. ^ a b c Rodda, John (8 August 1983). "Waitz's fitting first". The Guardian. p. 16 – via
  14. ^ a b c "Waitz waltzes in marathon; Juantorena has surgery". The Courier-Journal. Associated Press. 8 August 1983. p. C1 – via
  15. ^ a b "Marathon women: 1st IAAF World Championships in Athletics". World Athletics. Retrieved 2 July 2020.