Some runners like the rain. Don’t count Eliud Ngetich among them.
The 21-year-old Kenyan says some of his worst races have come on wet courses and, if he had his say over Mother Nature, the streets of Shelter Island would have been dry as a bone Saturday.
The race results tell a different story.
Ngetich, fresh off a win last week at the 7-mile Litchfield Hills Road Race, was the top finisher of the 36th Shelter Island 10K despite the slippery conditions, breaking the tape at 28:53.51
“Most of the races I’ve run in the rain I haven’t done well,” he said. “This is my first time doing really good in rain. I was a little worried.”
Race founder Cliff Clark said it’s the first time the Shelter Island 10K has ever been run in the rain.
Ngetich said he entered the race thinking he could finish in the top two and might have a shot at a course record of 28:37. Once he saw it begin to rain, he scrapped those goals and focused instead on just running with his peers and finishing at his best. He still finished just ahead of the 29-minute mark.
“I knew I was in good form but I was just looking forward to the race, not winning or anything,” he said.
Ngetich said he finally knew something special was happening when he never fell back in the pack.
“I was calm, steady all the time,” he said. “It felt good.”
He was just 16 seconds off the course record set in 2012 by fellow Kenyan Simon Ndirangu and nearly a minute ahead of this year’s second-place finisher.
Ngetich is relatively new to the sport, having only gotten serious about running as a teen looking for a college scholarship. When that didn’t pan out, the 2016 Olympic hopeful turned pro in 2011 and eventually moved to New York.
Past Olympian and Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi, 40, joked that it’s “good to see the next generation take over.”
“We went out with him for a mile and a half and then he was by himself,” Keflezighi said. “He ran a pretty strong race. When you’re up in front winning, it’s pretty easy to be upbeat and to get the crowd going.”
Keflezighi (29:59.54) of San Diego finished fourth overall behind Ngetich, second-place finisher Diriba Degefa Yigezu, 27, of Ethiopia (29:44.42), and third-place finisher Ayekle Megersa Felsa (29:51.11), also a 27-year-old Ethiopian.
The top female finisher was 29-year-old Ethiopian Elfish Melaku, who runs out of Silver Springs, Md at 34:05.45 She came in five seconds ahead of Katie DiCamillo, 27, of Providence, R.I. at 34:10.83. Melaku’s time is tops for a female finisher since fellow Ethiopian Bizunesh Deba ran 33:52 in 2009.