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Fight, flight or keep pushing? The Reporter runs the Shelter Island10K

“Running is the classical road to self-consciousness, self-awareness, and self-reliance.” — Noel Carroll, American philosopher.

I ran track and cross country throughout middle school, and running has stayed with me. When the opportunity to run in the annual Shelter Island 10K was offered, I couldn’t pass it up. Here’s a report on my Saturday, June 18.

10:06 a.m. Race day. I wake with my eyes fluttering like a bird finding its balance. Is the thunderous rumbling of my stomach hunger? Or nerves at the day ahead?

4:45 p.m. It seems like the entire community is gathered at Wilson Circle. Chilly, 67 degrees, and a blustery wind is keeping me on my toes. I meet several people helping me strategize how to pace myself. As I line up to begin the race, doubt is creeping in. Will I be able to finish?

5:39 p.m. “Thirty seconds.” These words from Dr. Frank Adipietro shock my body into questions of fight or flight. I remember my training from cross country, and take a deep breath. “Ten seconds.”

5:40 p.m. The air horn screams at us to launch forward. The first minute I’m suffocated by runners around me and want to break out of the pack, but there’s comfort in keeping up the pace I started with.

5:46 p.m. On a 6:45 min/mile pace entering the second mile. No trouble keeping up with the pace, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to maintain it for the duration. I slow down a bit and watch my fellow runners passing me.

5:51 p.m. Breathing is quickening. Trying to slow my heart rate so I can take deeper breaths, be more in control of my body. Haven’t even finished the second mile, and my legs are turning to stone. The wind picks up — definitely not helping.

5:54 p.m. I passed the second mile marker — finally! — running a 7 min/mile pace. I can keep this up. “I have to keep this up,” I tell myself. Passing the second mile checkpoint is not as satisfying as I hoped. The thought comes: I’m not even halfway. My stomach is starting to cramp. Where did that come from? I slow, and suddenly see two kids reaching their hands out to high-five me. I smile, reach my hand out to meet theirs and completely forget about the cramps, focusing on finishing, to make them proud. The dragging of my legs turns into a machine-like cycle of one foot in front of the other.

6:03 p.m. Completing the third mile with a newfound confidence — I can finish this without stopping. The halfway point helps, too. I’m now on the second stretch. I see a daunting hill up ahead, but continue my steady pace into the fifth mile.

6:11 p.m. There really is something to be said about running for something bigger than yourself, and the athlete’s maxim that when the body wants to fail, the mind starts to take over. That’s exactly what’s happening in this fifth mile. Seeing folks — it looks like the whole community — out of their houses and cheering the runners along with the 7,000-plus American flags lined up for the entire Joey’s Mile keeps me running. But not just running, running faster. My legs’ machine-like motion turns into a determined dash, and I run past the people who’d been in front of me the whole race.

6:19 p.m. The last mile — a blur of swirling green trees. I forget about my tightening calves.

6:25 p.m. I’m so close — 3/10 of a mile. 528 yards. 1,584 feet. I can do it. My knees are pumping like they have a mind of their own and it’s like I’m being pulled by a string to the finish line. I pass several runners as I rip through the grass — what happened to the pavement? And then, all I hear is cheering.

6:27 p.m. With a final time of 7:39 min/mile and 47:30 elapsed time, I’ve completed my first 10K. My only thoughts: This is one of the most special and rewarding experiences I’ve ever been a part of, and, what’s the date for next year’s 10K?