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Real headliner of 10K: Shelter Island

COURTESY ART | It's the course, of course, that attracts many runners to the Shelter Island 10K.

COURTESY ART | It’s the course, of course, that attracts many runners to the Shelter Island 10K.

From the breathtaking views of the Island, to the chance to watch Meb Keflezighi, winner of the Boston Marathon and the American record holder for 10 kilometers, the 35th annual running of the Shelter Island 10K is ticketed to be a memorable event.

Mr. Keflezighi highlights a strong field of athletes that includes several other runners who have competed on the world’s stage.

While a select few run with the intent of winning and capturing the $1,000 grand prize, the majority of the field will simply be pleased to cross the finish line at Fiske Field.

But for all the stars competing, the real attraction to the 10K is the course. Runner’s World magazine recently named the 10K as one of the most beautiful in the country. Nearly half the race is spent on the waterfront.

The race begins at the traffic circle in the Center, and heads east on Route 114 to St. Mary’s Road. Runners are greeted by ringing bells at St. Mary’s, though not before traversing two steep hills. The second mile proves no easier, as the road comes to a peak next to the flowing fields of Paard Hill horse farm before gradually descending back to sea level.

Unsuspecting runners will attack these hills with abandon, pushed forward by cheering crowds and the inevitable adrenaline rush that follows. But Lauren Ruiz, 32, an administrator at Camp Quinipet and five-time veteran of the 10K cautioned: “The hills just keep on coming.”

JOANN KIRKLAND PHOTO | Lauren Ruiz, an administrator at Camp Quinipet, training for her sixth Shelter Island 10K.

JOANN KIRKLAND PHOTO | Lauren Ruiz, an administrator at Camp Quinipet, training for her sixth Shelter Island 10K.

The third mile takes runners up Manhanset Road to the edge of Gardiner’s Bay Country Club and into the most scenic segment of the race. The shimmering waters of Peconic Bay greet runners once they turn onto Sylvester Road.

Pristinely manicured hedges funnel joggers down Shore Road, and after a short break, the hills resume. Fluorescent yellow caution signs that originally bore the word “Bump” to warn drivers have been altered by a resident using electrical tape to add the letter “s” to each sign: This race does not lack bumps.

After returning to Route 114 for a brief stretch, contenders follow Midway Road south before eventually finishing at Fiske Field.

Ms. Ruiz’s favorite part of the course is leaving Route 114 and turning onto Midway and seeing “all those flags” of Joey’s Mile.

While praising the ability of race organizers to shuttle thousands of people onto the Island, Ms. Ruiz also noted how this race appeals to runners of all ages and skill levels. Elite racers shoot for times under 30 minutes, while the average runner typically finishes in just under one hour.

A 5K walk, as well as a children’s Fun Run provide even more athletes with an opportunity to participate.

Unlike the major road races in which runners like Meb Keflezighi typically compete, Shelter Island’s 10K has a relatively small field. At press time, over 1,300 runners and walkers had registered. The Boston Marathon accepts 30,000 entrants, while New York City’s race had over 50,000 finishers last year.

The scale of the Island’s signature sporting event gives recreational runners an intimate view at world-class athletes. And a chance to view the Island’s beauty sparkling in a summer evening.

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