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Year in Review: Perfect day for Island’s 40th annual 10K race

This week, the Reporter brings you some of the top stories of 2019.

It may not have been a day in which records were broken, but it was picture perfect for the 40th annual Shelter Island 10K Run/5K Run-Walk. A hot morning turned into a breezy afternoon and, right at the starting gun, gentle clouds moved in.

Rain would hold off as new and experienced participants readied for the event. For Race Director Mary Ellen Adipietro, it was her 20th year leading the organizing effort. She remembered when she agreed to be the director, she figured it would be for a single year.
“This race is all about the purity of the sport,” Ms. Adipietro said.

It’s also a fundraising event for the Shelter Island Community Fund, Timothy Hill Ranch for Boys and East End Hospice. But numerous other groups were on the course to raise funds for causes.

As is the case annually, the race is dedicated to the memory of Army First Lieutenant Joseph Theinert, who died fighting in Afghanistan in 2010. The final mile, lined with American flags, is “Joey’s Mile.”

The overall winner of the Island’s seminal sporting event, Eliud Ngetich, smiled when a reporter joked that his participation in the 40th annual Shelter Island 10K Run on June 15 amounted to a long cooldown. The Kenyan, who lives in Queens, turned in quite a performance that was even more impressive, considering what he had done earlier in the day.

Ngetich was the first to cross the finish line at Fiske Field on Shelter Island Saturday evening. But it wasn’t the first race he’d won that day. Ngetich told reporters he had won a five-kilometer race in Queens in the morning.

“I’m really happy with myself,” Mr. Ngetich, 25, said following his victory in the Island’s premier sports event. “I mean, I won two races in a day. Yeah, it’s a big day, yeah. Really, I’m happy about it.”

What’s not to be happy about? He clocked 29 minutes, 49 seconds in Shelter Island. Running a 4:48 mile pace, he posted a nearly identical time to his second-place Shelter Island finish in 2017 — 29:47.

Then again, this second race of the day for Mr. Ngetich wasn’t about time. “I just wanted to win,” he said.

A Kenyan won the women’s race as well. Catherine Mwanzau, 19, of Lansing, Michigan, made her first Shelter Island appearance one to remember. Ms. Mwanzau was the eighth runner overall in 33.03.

Did she expect to win? “No,” she answered. “You never know.”

Did she feel good during the race? “No,” she said.

Ms. Mwanzau liked the scenic but challenging course, with many rolling hills, plus the human aspect of the event. “It’s very festive,” she said, “many people cheering.”

Mr. Ngetich’s nearest competitor was Tariku Demelash Abera of New York City (29:59).

The second woman across the finish line was Feyne Gudeto Gemeda of New York City (33:41). Peter Hawkins, 55, of Malverne won the wheelchair race in 37:30. His competition, Islander William Lehr, 61, was second in 41:06.

Two young track stars became the first Island man and woman to cross the finish line.

Immediately after breaking the tape, Kal Lewis, 17, said he’d run the 10K before, but this was the first race he’d run for “time.”

Delia Hayes, 22, said she didn’t have a specific time as a goal running her first 10K.

Spending every summer on the Island since she’s been a little girl, Delia graduated from Boston College this spring where she ran cross country and track. For the 2019 10k, Delia ran a 38:33 race to finish 33rd overall.

Former Olympian Joan Benoit Samuelson described the day as one where Islanders “really show their true colors.” Ms. Benoit Samuelson was the first woman marathoner to ever win a gold medal in 1984 in Los Angeles. This was her 10th appearance on Shelter Island and she came in at a respectable 40:26.93.

Earlier in the afternoon, it was a contingent of young children who raced in the annual Kids Run. They were all antsy awaiting the start, but once they were told to begin, ran full out.

A 10k column

By Graham Moore

Until the 10K, I only enjoyed running when chasing something.

I’ve played soccer my entire life and I box in college. When I’m chasing soccer balls or dodging blows, I can run and be active all day. Otherwise, let’s just say — to put it mildly — I find running not an enjoyable enterprise.

But for the 40th Anniversary of the Shelter Island 10K, the Reporter has assigned me, the summer intern, to run and represent the paper in the great race.

Fun fact about running: An early version of the treadmill was invented in England as a means to reform prisoners who had to run every day and all day. In the 19th century, it was deemed cruel and unusual punishment for prisoners. In the 1970s, it was re-marketed as a fitness machine. I rest my case.

The one thing that’s been consistent throughout the 40 years of the 10K is the town and the wider East End community bring such a supportive and encouraging energy, that even first-time runners like me feel inspired to make a go of it.

This sentiment is reflected in the crowd. Waiting for the gun in the crowd of runners, there’s a carnival atmosphere that gives me and everyone around me a rush of pure adrenaline.

Bang! We’re off at the Wilson Traffic Circle in the Center, pounding east down Route 114, heading for St. Mary’s Road, where ringing bells from the church’s bell tower are greeting us. Or at least St. Mary’s lies somewhere just ahead, behind the two steep hills I have yet to climb.

Kilometer 2
The beginning of the race starts with idyllic scenes. Crowds of cheering people on either side of the road push me forward. Even more reassuring is the first part of the race is mostly downhill. I’m told not to go too fast on this slope because, as 10K veterans tell you, the course will soon start uphill. But, hey, I’m young, I’m fresh, and I’m pushing myself farther up the pack.

Kilometer 3-4
The third and fourth kilometers punish me for my naivete, as the road comes to a peak before gradually descending back to sea level.

Kilometer 5-6
The third mile takes us up Manhanset Road to the edge of Gardiner’s Bay Country Club, the most scenic segment of the race, where the beauty of Shelter Island, rather than the athletes, becomes the center of attention.

More importantly, the shimmering waters of the bay distract me from the hills up ahead.

But I’m sweating. As in wringing wet. My breathing is getting heavier and heavier. I’m becoming aware of the many over-70-year-olds, steadily, but surely passing me and receding into the distance ahead.

Did I really say I was young and fresh?

Kilometer 7-8
My lungs are struggling to keep up with the rest of my body. I feel and hear my heart pounding in my chest. My legs are starting to ache. But like the surrounding runners, I press on.

Kilometer 9
Leaving Route 114 and turning onto Midway Road lies the final and most inspiring part of the course.

On turning onto Midway I start seeing hundreds of flags marking “Joey’s Mile,” honoring and remembering U.S. Army First Lieutenant Joseph Theinert, killed in action in Afghanistan. The road is peaceful and a few groups of people are cheering us on.

When the cheering fades, all I hear is wind in the trees and the steady patter of a dozen runners’ feet hitting the pavement.

Kilometer 10
The Shelter Island 10K attracts world-class professional runners, many looking to lock up some prize money. But I belong to the majority in the race who are happy to have just crossed the finish line at Fiske Field.

And it’s here, at the finish, that attracts the true spirit of Shelter Island, and makes the 10 kilometers worth running. The crowd at the field is enthusiastic, gleeful and steadfast in their support of the runners and the charitable causes they represent.

Across the line, I join in the euphoria of everyone.