Battling humid conditions and pain, Kenyan wins the Island’s 10K

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO They're off! The start of Saturday's38th annual Shelter Island 10K.

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO They’re off! The start of Saturday’s 38th annual Shelter Island 10K.

The 38th annual Shelter Island 10K attracted nearly 2,000 athletes Saturday competing under overcast skies, temperatures in the mid-70s and thick, humid air, which took its toll on some runners over the 6.2-mile circuit of the Island.

One of them was the winner of the men’s division, Kenyan Edwin Kipsang Rotich, who was first across the finish line at Fiske Field in a time of 29:2857. He was running alone at the end, more than 100 yards ahead of countryman Eliud Ngetich, who won the Island 10K two years ago.

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO Edwin Kipsang Rotich running alone to the finish line of the 10K Satruday

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO Edwin Kipsang Rotich running alone to the finish line of the 10K Saturday.

Mr. Rotich, 28, had to overcome the heavy air, but also a “stich,” or sharp pain, in the right side of his chest that struck him at about the five mile mark, he said moments after the race.

Lying on a massage table set up in a tent near second base of the Fiske Field baseball diamond, Mr. Rotich said there was no thought of quitting when he felt the pain.

“I was going to finish,” Mr. Rotich said, exhausted. “I kept on running.”

Gotytom Gebreslase, a 22-year-old Ethiopian, was the first woman to break the tape in a time of 32:06:19. The humid air didn’t bother her, she said, a few minutes after finishing the race, looking fresh and smiling.

Ms. Gebreslase had trained in the Washington, D.C .area for the last several weeks, she said, where it “was hotter than this.”

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO Gotymon Gebreslase breaking the tape as the winner of the women's division of the 10K Saturday.

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO Gotymon Gebreslase breaking the tape as the winner of the women’s division of the 10K Saturday.

The Island’s course was a challenge, she added, with hills and flats, but it was “beautiful,” and she enjoyed the groups of Islanders encouraging runners along the way.

Cliff Clark, an Island racing legend and considered one of the region’s greatest running coaches, noted that Mr. Rotich had been on a pace to shatter the Island’s men’s division 10K record of 28:37 before conditions and the pain in his chest slowed him.

Mr. Clark said at the 2-mile mark of the race, the Kenyan hit a time of 8:49, “the fastest I’ve ever seen on this course.”

Timed at 14:05 at the halfway mark was, again, in Mr. Clark’s estimation, a blistering pace destined to set a record.. But then a mile from the finish he “really slowed,” Mr. Clark said, adding that he admired Mr. Rotich’s perseverance and courage.

“One mile to go,” Mr. Rotich said, and pointed at his chest, shaking his head and smiling slowly.

But when someone congratulated him on his victory, the young man, still smiling said, “Yes. I won.”

The Reporter’s website will have more coverage of the 10K over the next several days, including photos and video, and full coverage in the Thursday, June 22 print edition.