Here’s a chance to outrun Olympians

06/15/2012 9:00 PM |

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Cliff Clark (left), who was a co-founder of the Shelter Island 10K, poses with Olympians (from left) Frank Shorter, Amanda Clark, Keith Brantly, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Ludmilla Petrova, Bill Rodgers and coordinator of the elite runners, Janelle Kraus-Nadeau following Friday's WLNG radio program. Hosted by Dr. Frank Adipietro, the program was broadcast from the finish line in Fiske Field Friday.

Ever want to beat an Olympic marathon runner? Saturday is your chance.

Four of the five elite runners in the Shelter Island 10K won’t be going all out, but rather setting paces for those who want to run the course with specific time goals in mind.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won an Olympic gold medal in the Los Angeles games in 1984, will be running the course in 40 to 42 minutes; Keith Brantly, who competed in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, will be aiming for a 45-minute finish. Bill Rodgers, who competed in 1976 in Montreal, is aiming for a 50-minute race. And Frank Shorter, who took home gold in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, will be running a one-hour race.

That’s the plan, the former Olympians told WLNG’s listening audience in a two-hour discussion Friday afternoon from the race’s finish line at Fiske Field. Dr. Frank Adipietro hosted the discussion.

But don’t plan on outpacing Olympian Ludmilla Petrova, who took home a silver medal from the 2004 Olympics in Athens. She’ll be running all out to win. Ms. Petrova, the only Russian woman to win an ING Marathon in New York City, said she considers the Shelter Island race good training.

“There are so many reasons why the kids on Shelter Island would want to emulate you,” Dr. Adipietro told her.

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Joey's Mile, the last mile of Saturday's 10K, is dedicated to Shelter Island's own 1st Lt. Joey Theinert, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on June 4, 2010, and is marked by these small American flags that line the roadway.

Another pace-setter is Shelter Island’s Amanda Clark, who is set to compete for a medal in the Women’s 470 sailing race in the London Olympics this summer. She’s running to support her home town, but won’t be trying to outpace any runners, viewing the race as a cross-training opportunity. She’s determined not to sustain any injuries that could upset her Olympic dream.

Discussing Joey’s Mile — the last mile of the race dedicated to former Shelter Islander 1st Lt. Joseph Theinert, who was killed in Afghanistan in June 2010 — she said she will “be inspired” by the sight of the flags lining that part of the route.

“The Island looks amazing,” Ms. Clark said.

The Olympians — past and present — compared experiences of training and competing with Mr. Shorter pointing out that while he could train with others on a non-competitive basis, when it came to race day, he was able to tun on his competitive spirit and go all out to win. It has been 40 years since his Olympic win. He joked that he’s twice as old and will be running half as fast when he sets out on the Shelter Island course Saturday afternoon. As others pass him, he just wants them to look back and tell him, “You’re looking good,” he said.

“I think I was mad that Frank [Shorter] beat me in ‘72,” Mr. Rodgers said. That’s why he kept running, he said.

“I love this course,” Mr. Rodgers said about Shelter Island.

“It’s not going to be an Olympic performance, but we’ll have fun,” Mr. Brantly said. He likely surprised the others when he talked about running not being fun and said as a student, he had hoped to compete in sailing. Today he coaches runners, but said for him, running isn’t something he wants to do on a daily basis.

For Ms. Benoit-Samuelson, the thrill of her Los Angeles win was very real, but she marks a recent race — the Boston Marathon that she ran with her daughter Abby this year — as a culmination of a dream. When she came through the tunnel to the finish line in Los Angeles in 1984, she said she promised herself that she would continue to give back to the sport, but never imagined that she would have a daughter who enjoyed running as much as she does.

“Abby hung tough and I stayed one step behind her,” Ms. Benoit-Samuelson said.

“I tell young children to live your dreams and follow your heart,” she said.

Mr. Shorter discussed his 1972 win that was marred by the killing by a Palestinian paramilitary group called Black September of 11 Israeli athletes and officials in the Olympic Village. He remembers hearing shots and by morning, when they learned what had happened, the initial American response was to leave the games. But instead, the American athletes stayed and competed, determined not to give in to the terrorists.

Just as Mr. Shorter was nearing the finish line, knowing he had the race in hand, someone in a golf cart moved onto the track, jumped off the vehicle and began running.

“Many people were upset when this imposter came in,” Mr. Shorter said. But he knew he was winning and it didn’t trouble him, although the silence in the stadium, broken by boos aimed at the imposter, made him realize, it wasn’t about the cheers, but about the goal of winning.

Cliff Clark, who had his own Olympic dreams back in 1972 when he hoped to compete in Munich in the steeplechase and 5,000 meter race, but didn’t make the team,  said he wept when Mr. Shorter won and wept again when Ms. Benoit-Samuelson became the first woman to win an Olympic medal as a marathoner.