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Racing away from the pandemic

The small crowd gathered around the finish line at Fiske Field Saturday, waiting for the first 10K runners to approach, was in for a treat.

All eyes were on the far side of the outfield, where the athletes would emerge from the trees onto the path that would take them home from their 6.2-mile run around the Island. Suddenly, two runners came into view separated by about 15 yards. As they made the turn on the grass heading for the final straightaway, the second runner put on a remarkable kick, streaking past the slowing lead runner, who then found a kick of his own, but not enough to close the gap.

Running hard through the tape across the finish line, Westhampton’s Jordan Daniel, 29, had won the 42nd annual Shelter Island 10K in a time of 32:09.72.

Jordan Daniel breaking the tape after a remarkable kick to win. (Credit: Adam Bundy)

Patricio Castillo of Queens, also 29, was only 3 seconds behind the winner. Exhausted, sitting in the grass, the native of Mexico said he lost because of a miscalculation. He thought the finish line was at the turn onto Fiske Field from Bateman Road, so he called up all his reserve energy to kick toward that place. But then, realizing he had about half a mile to go, and nearly out of gas, he “pushed as hard as I could,” he said with a weary smile, before congratulating Mr. Daniel.

Mother Nature hadn’t cooperated with the runners with hot, sultry, sticky weather, the worst kind of conditions for distance running. Mr. Daniel, hands on knees, breathing deeply, said the weather had been brutal, but he’d run “a conservative race to start, then picked it up where I was running by myself for a while until other runners came up. I had a lot left for the finish.”

Allie Kieffer, 35, of West Islip, was the first woman across the finish line, and 10th overall, with a time of 34:25.40. Ms. Kieffer.

Allie Kieffer, the first woman across the finish line. (Credit: Adam Bundy)

Elitefeats, which helped organize and time the vent, listed 597 runners registered for the 10K, and 389 runners for the 5K, which was won by Katherine Jonas of St. James, N.Y.

In the wheelchair division, two long-time rivals were joined by a newcomer. Peter Hawkins of Malverne out-dueled Islander Bill Lehr, while first-timer Norbert Holowat of Williston Park, N.Y. finished third. “That guy, Hawkins,” Mr. Lehr said, shaking his head and smiling. “I’m going to get him one of these days.

Mr. Hawkins said, “Bill’s a great athlete. I just try to keep him in my rearview mirror.”

Three champions. From left, Bill Lehr, Peter Hawkins and Norbert Holowat . (Credit: Adam Bundy)
Pete Hawkins winning the wheelchair division. (Adam Bundy)

A day to remember

Like most Island events, the 10K was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic. Saturday was a slimmed down version of the Island’s great summer sporting event and festival, with no Friday pasta-loading party at the traditional communal dinner packed with runners and family members who had come over the night before the race. And there were no pre-race events for kids or mass stretching classes, but none of it seemed to matter.

The Island’s signature sporting event went off with an airhorn blast at 5 o’clock, and joyous runners started to traverse the Island’s beautiful course of woods, water views and rolling hills. Just by being back in the Center on a June Saturday, the 2021 10K had become a day to remember, many people said, after death, illness, and shutdowns caused by COVID-19. Islander Dr. Frank Adipietro, the voice of the 10K and one of its organizers, said, “It’s a race for the human race.”

Islander Tara Wilson, immediately after finishing her race, glowing with sweat like all her fellow competitors, said that the running of the 10K was a chance for her hometown to “shake off the pandemic dust.”

Ms. Wilson was the first Island woman across the line; Jason Green was the first Island man to finish.

Northwell Health was the presenting sponsor with Corcoran, Saunders, North Fork Surgery Center, Norsic and Ready Fresh also signed on to sponsor. Beneficiaries of funds include Cohen’s Children’s Hospital, the Shelter Island Community Fund and other Island charities. More than 20 teams of racers, many raising funds for charitable causes, were in the field.

And once again, as they have for so many years, volunteers from the Peconic Amateur Radio Club provided safety oversight for the race participants by manning their stations placed strategically along the entire length of the course

Faces in the crowd

Dan Sullivan of Southold and Jarred Felix of New York City, college roommates just a few years past graduation, were eager for the race as they walked toward Wilson Circle. Mr. Sullivan was an experienced runner entering his first Island 10K. Mr. Felix just started running when the pandemic hit. “Living in the city, I had to get out and do something,” he said.

Christine Murphy of Miller Place said she’d been serious about running since 2011 when she wanted to lose weight after childbirth. Soon, she “developed a love for running,” adding with a smile, “It’s part of my therapy.”

Islander Alex Graham, who ran a virtual marathon last year around the Island and the virtual 10K as well, said before Saturday’s race she was a bit concerned about the thick air and hot temperature, but she was ready. She had contracted COVID-19 in February, and was “super sick” for more than a month. But, in training for the New York City marathon in November, she said she wouldn’t miss her hometown race for anything.

Kal Lewis, the Shelter Island High School running legend, was home from the University of Iowa, where he’s a budding varsity track star on the Big 10 circuit. He wasn’t going to push himself, he said, since he had shut down training after the end of the college season, but was thrilled to be on the Island’s course.

One of the creators of America’s running boom, distance racing icon Bill Rodgers, was on hand in what has become an annual part of his schedule. A reporter had to stop taking notes several times interviewing Mr. Rodgers because runners kept approaching to ask for selfies.

Emma Martinez gave a poignant and lovely rendition of the National Anthem, and Dr. Adipietro sounded the airhorn. A sweet afternoon slowly stepping into evening on Shelter Island was just beginning.

The start of the 42nd annual Shelter Island 10K race, with Dr. Frank sounding the horn, left, and Island racing legend Kal Lewis, center, leading the pack (Credit: Adam Bundy)