By John Bayles
This year an expected 2,000 runners will descend on Shelter Island for the 31st annual Shelter Island 10K. And according to race director Mary Ellen Adipietro, the experience for many of them begins as soon as they board the South Ferry in North Haven.
“What sets [the race] apart is getting on the ferry and coming over to the island,” said Adipietro. “People love that and it really sets the tone for the entire flavor of the race.”
Flavor, and more specifically community, has been at the heart of the Shelter Island 10K ever since its inaugural running in 1981. Shelter Island is a runner’s island said Adipietro and the community is a running community. There are almost as many volunteers as there are runners, and many of them are local kids who host pre and post race parties, including a pasta party as soon as runners step off the ferry. They run the showers and provide music on the school’s soccer fields, where the race begins and ends. It is less your typical 10K race and more a day-long festival, with the race serving as the focal point.
There are, for any 10K, essentially two types of runners: those who run for time and those who run to finish. One unique aspect of the Shelter Island 10K, according to race co-founder Cliff Clark, is that world-class Olympic runners are running side by side with local runners who are not so much concerned with winning as they are with enjoying themselves.
“We have a nice mix, of being a race for the people — for folks who like to come out and support a charity and run for fun,” said Clark. “And also, we’re a race that brings in world class athletes.”
Case in point, last year for the race’s 30th anniversary Bill Rogers, former American record holder in the marathon who is best known for his victories in the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon in the late 1970s, was a celebrity guest runner.
“It’s the rank and file, the regular runners, getting an opportunity to rub shoulders with runners they’ve only read about,” said Clark.
The course itself has been ranked among the top ten most beautiful courses in the country by Runner’s World Magazine, with areas of the course that allow runners to peer over Dering Harbor, look out at the Orient Point Lighthouse and run through one of the most exclusive private communities in the country.
And in terms of the race itself, it is consistently ranked in the top 75 races in America. Shelter Island local Janelle Kraus knows the course by heart, having run the race ten times since she was a cross-country runner at Shelter Island High School with Clark as her coach. Kraus went on to become the only local female runner to finish in the top three, when in 2002 she finished second with a time of 35:33.
The terrain / training
“There are hills that can make the course challenging,” said Kraus. “That’s only one part of the course. Someone shouldn’t say they shouldn’t do the race because of the hills – the hills are more of a challenge than a reason not to do it.”
In terms of training, she said traveling to the island is not going to give you much of an advantage, though it is nice to be familiar with the loop. Kraus said just being able complete the distance, 6.2 miles, is the key. She said an average runner might want to begin in late February or early March by getting out of the door four or five days a week and running a half mile, or whatever is comfortable.
“Listen to your body, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself,” she said.
After a week or so, try and push it up a notch, maybe running a full mile and then slowly increasing your distance each week.
Jessica Bellofatto, from Sag Harbor, has run the race six times and has only recently become “a serious runner.” She agreed with Kraus and said there is plenty of time for a casual runner to train between now and June, when the race is held. She said it’s all about pacing yourself, and starting out small, maybe running for five minutes a day and then gradually pushing yourself to increase your time and distance.
“I was just a very casual runner,” said Bellofatto. “A 5K was no issue, but a 10K was a big deal for me. It was hard, really hard, but you can pace yourself, and know that you can always walk. When you do start getting a little more serious about it, your body adapts and then six miles is nothing.”
But for Bellofatto, the race will always be about more than just running.
“Early on [in the race] you pass by St. Mary’s Church and they’re ringing the church bells,” she said, “The first time I thought it was a coincidence, but then I realized they were doing it for the race.”
Then there’s the “great Gatsby” aspect of the race that Bellofatto loves as well.
“You’re passing all of these mansions on the water and people are out on their lawns, dressed in all white sipping their champagne. There’s a real party atmosphere.”
Janelle Kraus’ Make or Break Points for the Shelter Island 10K
- The course begins on Highway 114 and even before the one-mile mark, runners are presented with the first significant hill, running past St. Mary’s Church.
- Between the second and third mile mark, runners find themselves on a windy stretch of road surrounded by trees on both sides. Here, visibility is low and the real runners are separated from the fun runners.
- Approaching the four-mile mark, runners see the shoreline homes on their left and Dering Harbor on their right. Here, your body is telling you to shut down, but you are only two miles from the finish line and you have to push yourself.
- There’s a long, deceiving uphill stretch that takes runners past the old Dering Harbor Inn, before the final turn back on to Highway 114. Here is the five-mile mark and all moves are made and it is very difficult for positions to change.
The 31st running of the Shelter Island 10 K will take place on Saturday, June 19th 2010 at 5:30 p.m.
For more information and to register for this year’s race, contact Mary Ellen Adipietro at firstname.lastname@example.org or 631-749-RUNS.