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Running for her hometown; Alex Graham completes marathon on the Island

It didn’t get really bad until around mile 20 when her legs began to bother her. And then the skies opened and she was running through hard rain and wind.

There was an upside, however. “The downpour took my mind off the pain,” year-round Islander Alex Graham said.

Ms. Graham ran her first marathon on Sunday, completing a 26.2 mile course that took her from Wades Beach all the way out to Ram Island, to Silver Beach, and back through the Center and finishing at her starting point.

A few friends and family ran with her for shorter distances throughout the day, including her friend James Marshall. “But I was never really alone,” she said, noting that people along the way were on the sides of the roads to cheer her on. “Some people had signs and cars would honk and people would yell out their windows,” she said.

Last week the Reporter noted several spots along the route she would pass so people could gather to cheer and encourage her, but some took it upon themselves to cheer at other locations.

COURTESY PHOTO Sarah Ross came out to cheer for her friend.

The marketing professional was supposed to run the prestigious Big Sur Marathon in California this past weekend, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the marathon and her California trip were cancelled. She had trained for over a year for her first-ever marathon.

Her race Sunday was to test herself — finishing in the very respectable time of 4 hours and 37 minutes — but also for her community, she said, promoting the recently formed Shelter Island Alliance.

She and Brett Surerus created the nonprofit Alliance to help Island restaurants weather the economic storm brought on by the pandemic, as well as helping feed healthcare employees working long hours without breaks. The idea is to keep the restaurants functioning and also pay them to help feed the staffs at Eastern Long Island and Stony Brook Southampton hospitals through donations.

The Alliance has also expanded its scope to help people in need on the Island.

Donors choose the restaurant they would like to support and the amount they want to donate and then go to Venmo Shelter Island Action Alliance (@shelterisland-actionalliance). Or checks can be made out to Shelter Island Action Alliance and sent to P.O. Box 452, Shelter Island, NY 11964.

Donations go directly to the restaurant of choice, which will determine the best way to optimize the money to feed the most people.

Ms. Graham’s solo race gave the Alliance a boost, she said. “Many people have contacted us,” she added.

So far, the nonprofit has delivered and scheduled more than 3,000 meals.

Her start Sunday morning at Wades Beach was quiet, with a few friends, including Adam Bundy who played a recording of the National Anthem from his car. The weather was perfect for a long distance run, she said, cool and overcast. But that changed with the downpour when she got to the Silver Beach-stretch of her marathon.

She as asked if she ever hit “the wall” that distance runners speak of, the time when energy is drained and one foot in front of another can be an ordeal. If there was a wall, she ran through it, she said. But she did suddenly understand the runner’s wisdom that a marathon doesn’t really start until mile 20.

Ms. Graham credits Mr. Marshall and Mr. Bundy as her “unofficial trainers,” who especially helped with ideas on nutrition for the endurance sport.

Back where she started at Wades Beach four-and-a-half-hours before, Ms. Graham was exhausted but proud of achieving a long-sought goal, and doing something  meaningful for her home town.

She also wanted everyone to know: “I finished first.”

For more information on the Shelter Island Alliance, email [email protected] or phone 631-806-5458 (Brett Surerus) or 646-415-2792 (Alex Graham).