(CNN) -- Grete Waitz, who became a darling of the long-distance running world after winning a record nine New York marathons, died Tuesday in Oslo following a six-year battle with cancer, the Norwegian Athletics Association said. She was 57.
Waitz was a virtual unknown in running circles when she won her first New York Marathon in 1978, beating the world record by two minutes. She went on to win another eight New York marathons, a feat that has never been duplicated in the New York race. In 1984, she won an Olympic silver medal.
"Norwegian sports has suffered a great loss, and people have lost a role model," Svein Aren Hansen, president of the Norwegian athletic association, said in a written statement.
"Grete has laid the tracks for female long distance running. She is an icon."
Waitz first disclosed in 2005 she was battling cancer, though she never disclosed any details about the disease or her treatment.
A three-time Olympian, Waitz was 18 when she failed to make the finals in the 1,500 meters in Munich in 1972. Four years later, she again failed to advance to the finals of 1,500 meters at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
In 1984, Waitz won a silver medal in the first running of the women's marathon at the Olympics. She finished second to American Joan Benoit Samuelson.