The city of Dunkirk, France Honors Running Pioneer Katherine Switzer
Dunkirk City Council and Mayor Patrice Vergriete recently dedicated their new stadium “Stade d’Athlétisme Kathrine Switzer” (“Kathrine Switzer Stadium”) during the official inauguration ceremonies which were held on September 14-15. “Kathrine Switzer made a very strong and symbolic statement when she competed in the 1967 Boston Marathon and paved the way for women to compete in long-distance running events, athletics and all of sport,” says Mayor Vergriete
The city of Dunkirk, France celebrated their new stadium to honor running pioneer and women’s sports icon, Kathrine Switzer. Switzer was the first woman to officially registered in the 1967 Boston Marathon.
Before Switzer traveling to Dunkirk for the festivities, I had the opportunity to do an email interview on her thoughts on receiving this award.
Q: Congrats Katherine on receiving another prestigious award/honor. Where were you when you heard the news?
A: Thank you! I was working at my computer in May and an email came from the Mayor of Dunkirk, Patrice Vergriete.
At first, I thought it was a joke, honestly. Then I read it again and realized how sincere it was and replied. They originally wanted me to come in June but my schedule was already booked, so they opened the track so people could use it, and made the official dedication date for when I could come. Attached is a photo of the opening of the track–they had young people doing a 100 m relay, all wearing 261.
Q: What does this honor mean to you?
A: It is extremely validating. I’ve worked hard all my life for women’s empowerment through sports, and long ago realized that you don’t always get recognized for the work–that’s OK, that’s not why you do it, you do it because it’s the right thing to do. Actually, I feel like I get a lot of recognition, but getting a stadium named after me is quite permanent !! So I hope many years from now, people both young and old will be reminded of my story of persistence and get out there and get moving despite all obstacles. Dunkirk is the global epitome of persistence and bravery. To be honored in this light by this city is a unique and sacred privilege and tribute. I am extremely grateful to the City of Dunkirk and Mayor Vergriete. But, I am most grateful for every young girl and boy, who, when they come to this stadium, might be inspired to persist and defy expectations.
Q; Tell us about your time there?
A: Roger Robinson (her husband) and I will take the Tunnel train from the UK to Lille and then drive to Dunkirk. The mayor’s office and the athletics people have a full schedule of media, ceremonies, etc for me. On Saturday afternoon I’m doing a big lecture open to the public. On Sunday, there is a city-wide fun run of different distances and I’ll run the 5K. There is the talk of the mayor taking us out to lunch and I see 3 hours is scheduled for it. I am dreaming already; I love real French food!!
Q: A stadium named after you what do you want runners in Dunkirk to know about you?
A: That I am persistent, determined and fearless. And that they can be too, by putting one foot in front of the other. AND, you are never too old to start. Not only am I hoping young are encouraged, but also oldies (like me).