Running: Kenyan clocks record time in Shelter Island 10K

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Simon Ndirangu of Kenya meeting with reporters after setting a Shelter Island 10K Run record: 28 minutes 37 seconds.


The weather conditions were ripe for a record.

A typical day for the Shelter Island 10K Run is hot, humid and sticky. Saturday was not like that at all. It wasn’t too hot, humidity was not a factor, and there was even a refreshing breeze that cooled the runners like a giant fan.

Some 90 minutes before the 33rd annual race, Dr. Frank Adipietro, the race’s medical director and public-address announcer, told a reporter, “We could definitely see a course record today.”

How right he was.

Simon Ndirangu of Kenya clocked a winning time of 28 minutes 37 seconds for a race record. He clipped three seconds off the previous mark that Alena Reta of Ethiopia set in 2010 when he won the race for the second time in four years.

But Saturday was Ndirangu’s day. The 26-year-old was steady throughout. Running a 4:37-per-mile pace, he completed the first five kilometers in 14:12 and then finished the second half of the race in 14:26.

“I’m very happy,” said Ndirangu, who had never run in the Shelter Island 10K before. “My aim was to beat the course record, and I did it.”

Second place went to Tesfaye Girma of Ethiopia in 29:10. The residences of the next six finishers — Samuel Ndereba (29:45), Abiyot Endale (29:50), Mengistu Nebsi (30:01), Ketema Nigusse (31:00), Boniface Biwott (31:18) and Mikael Tesfaye (31:29) — were not listed. Dan Wallace-Periac of Nyack (31:39) was ninth and Thomas Rammelkamp of Miller Place (32:35) took 10th.

Ndirangu, who started running professionally in 2006, did not know what his competition would be like, so he was running into the unknown, in a sense.

“I was not sure I was going to win, but I was sure I was going to do something under 29 minutes,” he said. “… It’s an opportunity God gives you once.”

And he snatched it.

Ndirangu made his move around the three-mile mark, when he took the lead. “By four miles, I was 90-percent [sure] I was going to win,” he said. “I believe I have a strong kick.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Malika Mejdoub, a Moroccan who lives in Albuquerque, N.M., won the women's race after taking second place last year.

In the women’s race, last year’s runner-up, Malika Mejdoub, took the top honor, winning in 34:28. Mejdoub, a Moroccan who lives in Albuquerque, N.M., held off a challenge from Hirut Mandefro of Ethiopia, who was second in 34:42.

Speaking of her time, which improved upon the 34:40 she turned in last year, Mejdoub said: “It’s not my best, but it’s alright.”

Third place went to McKenzie Melander of Apple Valley, Minn. Her time was 34:51.

Mejdoub, Morocco’s former cross-country champion, is hoping to compete in this summer’s Olympics in England. Morocco doesn’t hold trials to select its marathon runners, so for Mejdoub, it’s a waiting game as she waits for the Olympic list to come out. She’s hoping her name will be on it.

“Of course, anybody dreams to go to the Olympics,” she said. “I’m waiting. I don’t know what to do, what’s the plan. Anything can happen.”

Six former Olympians ran the course. Among them were two women who finished in the top 10: a Russian, Ludmila Petrova (seventh in 35:57), and Joan Benoit Samuelson of Freeport (10th in 39:29).

The other former Olympians were Keith Brantly, Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter and Shelter Island’s own Amanda Clark, a sailor who will compete in the Olympic Games in England later this summer.

The other top 10 finishers in the women’s race were Dorcus Chesang (fourth in 34:52), Ilona Barvanova (fifth in 35:15), Tinbit Wedgbral (sixth in 35:30), Heather Williams of Centerport (eighth in 38:26) and Tara Farrell of East Quogue (ninth in 38:55).

Ryan Udvadia, 16, of Shoreham was the top local finisher, coming in 14th in 34:28. Ken Rideout was the first Shelter Islander to cross the finish line. He was 15th in the men’s race in 36:26.

The final results showed that 1,067 runners completed the race.

When the race started in front of Shelter Island High School, a scene that looked like something Norman Rockwell would have painted took shape. Heads bobbed up and down as a mass of bodies snaked their way forward with American flags waving in the background. And there were more American flags, hundreds of them, planted in the ground over the last mile of the race, which was designated as “Joey’s Mile.” It is in memory of Shelter Island’s hero, 1st Lt. Joseph Theinert, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in June 2010.

African runners have a hold on this race, and for good reason: Running is their lifestyle.

“We do this for our life,” Ndirangu said. “We always train. In Africa we train hard, and probably most of the runners in Africa, they don’t have a job. Their job is just running, and those who are running, they take it very seriously.”

Count Girma among them. He said he runs 100 training miles a week.

“That’s my job,” said Girma, who won a 10-kilometer race in Orange County, N.Y., three weeks ago. “I’m training every day. I want to win.”

For Ndirangu and others, running is a way of life.

“Running is like my hobby. I like it,” Ndirangu explained. “In my career, I want to make history. I want to make victories, so this is one of them. I’m very, very happy.”

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