One of the themes of this year’s 35th annual Shelter Island 10K Run is “Overcoming obstacles.”
The 10K is our great summer sporting and community event, where Shelter Island gives its best to all who visit us. This coming year race organizers are preparing to help us all celebrate those who have struggled to meet goals and fight through adversity, in athletics and other parts of life.
What better symbol and figurehead to lead this race than Meb Keflezighi, winner of the Boston Marathon.
Meb — as he is known in the running community and to anyone who meets him — is not a Johnny-come-lately to our summer festival, but was signed up by 10K Race Director Mary Ellen Adipietro long before he broke the tape in Boston.
He is the first American man in three decades to take the laurel crown at Boston, and at age 38, his accomplishment in the most grueling of all footraces speaks volumes about battling and not backing down.
Meb is an American by choice, born in Eritrea, a country in the Horn of Africa that has been cursed by nearly constant war since the early 1990s. In Meb’s home country the average annual per capita income is $403 and two thirds of the citizens receive food aid.
Seeking a life free of violence and want, Meb’s parents took their family on a long journey from Eritrea to Europe and then on to America, where citizenship and opportunity waited.
In Southern California, Meb, along with his brothers and sisters, received quality educations and have prospered.
Sports events are too often hyped to something grander, as contests of good vs. evil, or jingoistic spectacles of national superiority or some pageant of morality triumphing.
But Ms. Adipietro and her husband Dr. Frank, along with the Island running legend and inspiration, Cliff Clark, have always kept the 10K as a community event that promotes fellowship and fun and supports many charities. They’ve let the people involved dictate any larger meaning.
With Meb running in his first event since Boston on our Island, his example and his story will speak for itself. Let’s hope it is heard clearly by those who have grown cynical about the promise of America and the every day commitment to that promise that immigrants to our town and the country keep alive.
Congratulations to Meb, and to Ms. Adipietro, and all who are guaranteeing that the 10K on June 21 will be a day to remember.