01/02/16 3:00pm
BOB DeSTEFANO

BOB DeSTEFANO

When I look back to just one single year in my life, the longest was when I went from 17 to 18. Now, one year goes by so fast it seems like a month.

With this, the last Eye on the Ball for 2015, I’m  centering my thoughts on how sports, in this tiny, unique place, shows us the importance they play in our lives. (more…)

05/23/15 3:00pm
RICHARD DENNING

RICHARD DENNING

There’s a truth to the proposition that you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

Few activities have better potential for measurement than running or walking. Emergency rooms overload each spring with over-the-hill guys playing baseball too hard at the church picnic and other bad decisions. (more…)

06/15/13 8:43pm
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Runners hit the course at the start of the 34th annual Shelter Island 10K Run.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Runners hit the course at the start of the 34th annual Shelter Island 10K Run.

SHELTER ISLAND 10K RUN

The Boston Marathon.

At least for the foreseeable future, those words bring to mind the horrific images of the bombings that occurred on April 15, reportedly killing three and injuring 264.

Noting the peaceful nature of his sport, Bill Rodgers, one of running’s beloved elder statesmen, couldn’t help but point out the “sad irony” that such an attack has become associated with a joyous sporting event.

Rodgers, a former United States Olympian and four-time winner of both the Boston and New York City marathons, was home with his girlfriend watching the marathon on television when the explosions went off.

“You don’t believe it’s real,” he said. “It is personal for all of us.”

And by “us,” Rodgers was referring to the running community, which has banded together in support of Boston. So, runners continue to run and compete.

“It’s kind of like a healing process,” Rodgers said. “Boston, I think, shook them up bad.”

The impact of those bombings continues to be felt. Two months to the day of those attacks, the Boston Marathon was undoubtedly on the minds of many at the 34th annual Shelter Island 10K Run on Saturday. One could see it from the stepped up security to the pre-race ceremony to the items worn by the runners. Some runners wore T-shirts with the words “BOSTON STRONG” printed on them. Many wore wristbands. One of Rodgers’ wristbands read, “We Run As One.”

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Many people were undoubtedly thinking about Boston, but it would only be understandable if Ethiopia was on Ayele Megersa Feyisa’s mind. Nearing the end a three-month spell in the United States during which he competed in nine road races, Feyisa ran for the first time on Shelter Island and the last time before heading back to his African homeland on Tuesday. He ran a time most human beings could only dream about, and recorded a triumph only a tiny percentage of runners ever get to experience, yet he was disappointed, nonetheless.

Sure, Feyisa captured first place, but he didn’t break the meet record. The 25-year-old Ethiopian, who has been living in New York City, fell 22 seconds short of the course mark that was set last year by Simon Ndirangu of Kenya. Ndirangu had himself clipped three seconds off the previous record that Alena Reta of Ethiopia set in 2010.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | The victims of the bombings at the Boston Marathon were remembered at the Shelter Island 10K Run on Saturday.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | The victims of the bombings at the Boston Marathon were remembered at the Shelter Island 10K Run on Saturday.

Feyisa was looking to put the record back in an Ethiopian’s hands — his hands — but it wasn’t in the cards. His winning time of 28:59 was hardly shabby, though. He finished six seconds ahead of the runner-up, Amos Sang, a Kenyan who lives in Manchester, Conn.

But Feyisa, who does not speak English, did not look pleased afterward. His manager, Alem Kahsay, who acted as a translator for reporters, confirmed as much.

“He feels bad because he tried to break the course record,” Kahsay said. “He’s happy [with his training], but he’s not happy today.”

The baking sun may have had something to do with keeping that course record out of reach. Feyisa also indicated that the hilly course was a challenge. “It’s very difficult, down, up,” he said following his fourth victory from nine road races.

Feyisa, running a 4:40 mile pace, took the lead on the second mile. Sang said he was close by until he slowed down a little on the fourth mile. Feyisa “kept pushing it,” Sang said. “He tried to press it. By mile four he was alone by himself.”

Sang sounded delighted with his performance and seemed to enjoy the experience. “I was not expecting second place,” he said. “Everything was amazing.”

Girma Gebre of New York City was third in 30:26. He was followed by Glarius Rop of Springfield, Mass., (31:09), Abdelhadi El Mouaziz of Queens (31:29), Abdelkebir Lamachi of Queens (31:43), Joseph Ekuon of Kingston (33:41) and Thomas Rammelkamp of Miller Place (33:57).

The next one to cross the finish line was the women’s winner, Katie Di Camillo, 26, of Providence, R.I.. She clocked a time of 34:19.

“I’m excited,” said Di Camillo, who ran cross-country and track for both Holy Trinity High School and Providence College. “I finished strong.”

The next four finishers were women as well: New York City residents Hirut Beyene Guangul (34:33) and Tsehay Gebre Getiso (34:51), Askale Merachi of Jackson Heights (35:16) and Atalelech Asfaw of Albuquerque, N.M. (35:35).

The top local runners were Keith Steinbrecher of Wading River (16th in 37:07), Bryan Knipfing of Shelter Island Heights (24th in 38:49), Rick Buckheit of Southold (33rd in 40:36) and Kyle Lehman of Cutchogue (37th in 41:15). The first local woman to finish was Suzy Heffernan of Cutchogue. She was 23rd in 46:56.

Nine hundred and seventy-two runners finished the race.

The Shelter Island race was further evidence that the spirit of athletics does not die easily. Runners are by nature a determined group.

“Shocking, shocking, shocking,” Sang said when reminded of the Boston bombings. “It’s something that happened, but we love running. We enjoy running. We’re not going to stop. We’re going to keep going.”

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06/14/13 5:00pm

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Former Olympians Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson answered questions from young athletes in the Shelter Island Runners Club during a WLNG radio interview at Fiske Field on Friday afternoon.

Former Olympians Joan Benoit Samuelson and Bill Rodgers have committed to running the 2014 Boston Marathon along with other former Olympians include Frank Shorter because “Our sport is a celebration of life,” Mr. Rodgers said. He was speaking to the WLNG-FM radio audience Friday during a two-hour program advancing Saturday’s Shelter Island 10K.

Ms. Benoit Samuelson will be running with a 45-minute pace group Saturday while Mr. Rodgers will be leading a 50-minute pace group.

The radio interview started at Fiske Field, but low temperatures and a brisk wind forced the Olympians into an SUV. They emerge toward the end of the program to meet with members of the Shelter Island Runners’ Club, coached by Toby Green.

“Did it ever snow at the 10K?” Ms. Benoit Samuelson joked, before turning her attention to the more serious subject of the bombings that marred the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring 264, many seriously.

Both said the bombings in Boston and the necessity of cancelling the New York Marathon this year in the wake of Superstorm Sandy won’t effect the spirit of runners.

Ms. Benoit Samuelson described the day of the Boston Marathon as “beautiful” and said she had finished her race and was  back in her hotel when the first explosion happened. Her husband “intuitively” knew it was a bomb, she said.

Mr. Rodgers remembered it was the same kind of weather that New York experienced on September 11, 2001, before the World Trade Center was struck by terrorists.

Both they and Dr. Frank Adipietro, who hosted the radio talk, sported bracelets that read, “We run as one — 2013 Boston Marathon.”

Mr. Rodgers predicted that next year’s Boston Marathon would swell to 100,000 runners with so many people determined to run. New York typically attracts about 42,000 runners, he said.

“This was a day when tragedy trumped triumph, but it will inspire us to good deeds,” Ms. Benoit Samuelson said.

“We’re in the healing phase now and there’s no question that we will persist and go on,” Dr. Adipietro said. He ran in Boston this year while his wife, Shelter Island 10k director Mary Ellen Adipietro was in the grandstand at the finish line with students from Newtown, Connecticut, who had survived shootings there this year. He talked about a period when he didn’t know if she was all right or not, but the former nurse was busy getting the children out of harm’s way in case there were additional blasts.

“Boston won’t be forgotten,” Ms. Benoit Samuelson said. “It will be a formidable part of our sport going forward.”

Both Olympians talked about their careers in the sport and told students in the Shelter Island running club that they were inspired by family to get into the sport. For Mr. Rodgers, it was his brother Charlie who got him into running.

Ms. Benoit Samuelson said she grew up with three brothers and “It was survival of the fittest.” But at first, she thought it would be skiing that would consume her interest. Following an accident that required rehabilitation, she started running and discovered that it was a sport that could be pursued anywhere, anytime.

She said not everyone with an interest in running needs to be a marathoner. Each runner should find his or her own pace and driving force, she said.

How did she feel being the first woman to win an Olympic Gold Medal in the marathon when she placed first in the 1984 Los Angeles games?

“I’m still pinching myself,” she said. But she said she was in the right place at the right time and kept her goal in mind.

Both Olympians said they look forward to returning to Shelter Island and love the spirit of the community here.

06/17/11 9:12pm

Thunderstorms and rain showers Friday may have worried runners about the prospects for Saturday’s Shelter Island 10K run but they didn’t dampen any appetites at the pre-race pasta party.

Julie and Sebastian Bliss, recently of Planet Bliss fame, did the cooking while the Shelter Island School 7th grade served up dinner in the American Legion Hall from 5:30 to 8 p.m in order to raise funds for student activities.

The starting gun of the big race sounds tomorrow, Saturday, at 5:30 p.m. sharp.

CARRIE ANN SALVI PHOTO | Seventh graders Kenna McCarthy and Ava Meing serving brownie sundaes at the 10K Pasta Dinner Friday evening at the Shelter Island American Legion Hall.

Student Billy Boeklen said that the dinner was “a great working experience that was a success, and also a lot of fun.”

Elite runner Bill Rodgers gave the brownie sundae a thumbs up after finishing his serving.

Seventh graders Henry Lang and Wyatt Fokine served salad. Kelly Colligan and Serina Kaasik served the pasta.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, 1984 Olympic gold medal winner, said the dinner had the “best pasta eats I have ever had before any race … I can tell people have taken pride in their cooking.” The Blisses served the pasta bolognese.

For the first time at the SI 10K, four elite runners — the same group at the dinner — will each  be running with pace groups Saturday.

Ms. Benoit Samuelson said Friday’s thunder and lightning was an issue during morning training, and that there were some puddles that needed to be taken care of before the race Saturday.

CARRIE ANN SALVI PHOTO | Elite runners, from left, Kim Jones, Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samuelson and Jon Sinclair at Friday’s 10K Pasta Dinner.