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Olympian to inspire youths at Shelter Island 10K

For the second successive year, Northwell Health is bringing a team of high school students from its “Strides for Success” program to Shelter Island at the June 15 10K Run and 5K Run/Walk.

And for the second successive year, former Olympian Bill Rodgers will be spurring on team members from throughout Long Island to embrace the sport that has been so prominent a part in his life. Last year, he was joined by Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first woman to win Olympic Gold in the 1980 Games in Los Angeles.

The now 76-year-old Mr. Rodgers runs for fun as he did in his youth. Last June, he ran in the 5K, but hopes to be up to doing the 10K this year and that it won’t be overly hot and steamy.

Shelter Island’s signature annual sporting event is one Mr. Rodgers eagerly looks forward to, he told the Reporter recently from his home in Massachusetts.

“It’s such a beautiful course, with the hills, trees, the views of the water,” he said. “It reminds me of when I was a kid running cross country. I’ve done big city races in the U.S. and all around the world, but I always look to get back to running like when I was a kid, in a natural, beautiful setting. And that’s Shelter Island.”

He is best known for winning both the New York and Boston marathons four times each. He won the Fukuoka Marathon in 1977, becoming the first runner ever to hold a championship of all three major marathons at the same time. In 1976 he had made the U.S. Olympic team and raced at the Montreal Olympics.

Track & Field News ranked Mr. Rodgers Number One in the world in the marathon in 1975, 1977 and 1979, and he was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1999 after being inducted the year before in the first round to the national Distance Running Hall of Fame.

If his pace has slowed from his Olympic days and other marathon successes, his motivation is still the same — to inspire others to engage in the sport he sees as vital to health and wellbeing. “We are meant to move,” he told the Reporter. Cycling, running, walking, swimming all mean you can live better, Mr. Rodgers said.

Just a week earlier, he ran three races, all fundraisers for good causes, but also to demonstrate running is a sport that can be a lifelong endeavor whether you live in a city or a rural area. He recalls in the early part of his running career, women weren’t welcomed into the ranks of competitive running on the theory that their bodies couldn’t sustain such rigors.

“The door has opened and women have played a big role as both competitors and coaches,” he said.

He is pleased to once again welcome the youths from the Northwell program. Northwell is the premier sponsor of the 10K Run and 5K Run/Walk for the third successive year, brought aboard by elitefeats, the race timers and organizers who work with Mary Ellen Adipietro in organizing the event.

Mr. Rodgers will be sharing his love of running with the students and answering their questions, hoping to inspire them to continue with the sport he says gets too little media coverage in the United States.

This is the 45th year of the Shelter Island race and is being billed as the “Sapphire Event,” Ms. Adipietro said.