BY RICH PALZEWIC
DE PERE – De Pere’s Cheri Greenfield-LaTour had run marathons before but none like the Nov. 4 New York City Marathon.
Greenfield-LaTour ran the event for 261 Fearless, a global non-profit running organization founded by running pioneer, Kathrine Switzer.
Switzer, who was born in Germany, was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as a numbered entrant in 1967. During her run, race official Jock Semple attempted to stop her and grab her bib No. 261, but Switzer managed to complete the race. It was not until 1972 that women were allowed to run the Boston Marathon officially. Switzer won the NYC Marathon in 1974.
According to the organization’s website, 261 Fearless uses running as a tool to empower and unite women through the creation of local running clubs, education programs, communication platforms and social running events. There are already 47 clubs worldwide on four continents.
“I was a late bloomer with starting my running,” said the 48-year old Greenfield-LaTour, who first ran a marathon in Chicago in 2015. “I wanted to do Chicago because if you think about it, running a marathon is not something that a lot of people do. I figured it would be my first and only one. When I did the Cellcom half marathon in Green Bay years ago, I was always so thankful to be turning left and not right to complete the full marathon.”
The most recent NYC Marathon was Greenfield-LaTour’s fourth marathon total. She had just completed Chicago Oct. 7, so running another marathon less than a month later was not on her radar.
“When Kathrine approached Humana and asked if we had some associates who would want to run New York for her charity, I couldn’t pass that opportunity up,” Greenfield-LaTour said. “I had tried to get into the event for years by entering into the lottery, so I pretty much immediately said yes. I had seen Kathrine’s story on ESPN – she really changed the history of running. It was a dream come true. The whole experience proved to me that I can do things I didn’t think I could do.”
Greenfield-LaTour also mentioned that the weather for Chicago in October was awful for the first 13 miles – it rained the first half of the race. She kept thinking to herself during that run that she would have to do it all over again in a month at New York, but Switzer’s cause kept her going.
“Kathrine is not just into it for the charity, but for you as a person and a runner,” Greenfield-LaTour said. “She had conference calls with the team beforehand and answered any questions we had. She really helped me mentally prepare. I’m not an elite athlete by any stretch of the imagination, but she helped me think through what my race strategy would be given I had just run Chicago and have a leg injury. She spent time with us beyond the charity aspect of the event.”
Greenfield-LaTour finished New York in 5 hours and 40 minutes.
Doing any large-scale event not only takes a commitment from the athlete themselves but also from one’s family.
“My family was super supportive of the whole thing,” said Greenfield-LaTour, who has a 15-year-old who goes to De Pere High School. “I didn’t expect to get out of it what I got out of it. I expected to run the race and that New York moves you. That’s what I expected. I didn’t expect to be transformed through the whole experience of being a part of Kathrine’s team and the way that she really cares about the communities she is building. Kathrine is very genuine and authentic in how she cares about people and inspiring in the fact that she’s now 70 and still running marathons.”
Even though she just completed one of the biggest races in the world, Greenfield-LaTour said that running through Lambeau Field is a unique and amazing experience – especially when they put you up in the jumbotron – but in different ways.
“When others come to Lambeau, it’s a special experience for them,” she said. “Maybe we take it for granted a little bit living here. This might sound strange knowing how I am, but when I ran in New York, I never got tired the whole race. I stopped and took pictures and enjoyed everything around me. I felt the power of running for something bigger than the race itself. Doing the Cellcom is equally as fun – except that one year when they had a bathroom shortage.”
Greenfield-LaTour plans on staying close to the charity – maybe doing New York again or possibly even the Boston Marathon.
“After you finish a marathon, you are very emotional,” she laughed. “It’s kind of like asking a mother right after childbirth if they want to go through that again. I think another marathon is definitely in my future.”
For more information on 261 Fearless, log on to 261fearless.org.