The Shelter Island Run—an historic race dating back to 1980—will return on Saturday, June 16 for its 39th year. Unlike many of the new, flash-in-the-pan races whose images pepper your newsfeed, the Shelter Island Run is beautifully devoid of gimmicks; runners aren’t sprayed with paint as they make their way along the course, nor are they ever chased by actors-turned-zombies. Instead, the Shelter Island Run offers something much more lasting: A beautiful course on a beautiful island; a race beloved by runners and organized by people who care about their community and are always looking for ways to give back.
Here are 9 things that make the Shelter Island Run so special.
1. The History
Born during the running craze of the 1980s, the Shelter Island Run was one of the country’s original races—and now, 39 years into its amazing history, it remains a beloved classic.
“The history of the race is really incredible,” says Mary Ellen Adipietro, race director of the Shelter Island Run. “We have generations of families—even from the city—that do this run every year. The grandchildren are running now. It’s amazing.”
2. Families Are Welcome
First and foremost, the Shelter Island Run is a 10k/5k run/walk—but did you know its organizers also put together a kids’ fun run?
“It’s a great opportunity for kids,” says Julie Oneill-Bliss, sponsorship and marketing coordinator for the Run. “It gives them a great sense of accomplishment and they can go from there. Finishing is just a huge success. It’s something that everyone can be proud of.”
The run also features a bounce house for kids to enjoy, and strollers are welcome.
3. The Run Organizes a “Runner’s Festival” You Won’t Want to Miss
Both before and after the race, runners and spectators alike will get to enjoy food trucks, live music, and more at the Shelter Island Run’s Runner’s Festival. Additionally, there is also a post-run barbecue.
“Our advice is always to come early, grab your bib, and enjoy the festivities,” says Oneill-Bliss. “And then after the race, DJ Twilo will begin and you can enjoy beer and wine.”
4. Olympians Love The Shelter Island Run
Not only is the Shelter Island Run beloved by families near and far, it’s a favorite course of Olympians! Both Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson list the race among their favorites.
“[The Shelter Island Run is] a special road race in the heart of an island community,” says Joan Benoit Samuelson. “The SI10k shows its true colors and appreciation for our sport through its outpouring of hospitality and beautiful course. Definitely a gem of a race that sparkles in Long Island Sound. [It’s] a race every runner should experience.”
Bill Rodgers agrees.
“Many of the world’s finest distance runners have raced Shelter Island and, after my first visit, I understood why they loved to race there—and why I do, too,” says Rodgers. “I think it’s the atmosphere, the feeling of relaxation that pervades this area. It’s a feeling like the Falmouth Road Race has; something that is special, and you know it when you are there!
“Part of this ‘feeling’ is the true country atmosphere, and the wonderful tree-lined streets we traverse. It remains me of my early days as a runner, which was often cross-country, in a park or through woods. One big difference is you are running by the ocean, and its relaxing influence is on you all the way to the Ballfield Finish.”
As far as testimonials go, it’s hard to imagine a better endorsement than that.
5. The Race Gives Back
Go for the race, the food trucks, and the live music—stay for the sense that, just by enjoying yourself, you’re giving to charity.
“Some people come to the race just to have a good time,” says Oneill-Bliss. “They come for the bounce house for the kids, to hear a great DJ, and indulge at the food trucks, and then they realize: ‘Oh, I just gave to charity.’ It’s a home-run.”
6. Active Military Personnel and Veterans Run Free
Even amidst all the running, fun, and games, the Shelter Island Run goes out of its way to acknowledge the service of our military personnel.
“Veterans always run free,” says Oneill-Bliss. “Active military personnel and veterans always receive complimentary registration at the Shelter Island Run.”
7. There’s a Pre-Run Pasta Party
Everyone knows—especially readers of Edible—that one of the greatest joys of race-running is the freedom to indulge in carbohydrates the night before. This is something the Shelter Island Run and its organizers know, too—as evidenced by the pre-run pasta party they host the night before the race at the American Legion.
“Anyone who’s registered to run can attend the pasta party,” says Adipietro. “It’s a lot of fun and it supports the 6th and 7th grade students who help put it on. The proceeds help fund the kids’ trip to Disney in 8th grade.”
8. This Is One Wellness-Driven Race
The Shelter Island Run cares deeply about the health of the East End and one of its key goals is to inspire health and wellness awareness.
“The Shelter Island Run mission is to increase health and wellness awareness through running,” says Oneill-Bliss. “We also love to show kids that exercise can be fun.”
9. The Race Is Made Possible by An Inspiring Number of Volunteers
The Shelter Island Run is made possible by a tremendous number of volunteers. Even race director Mary Ellen Adipietro is a volunteer—something unheard of in the world of races.
“We have at least 120 volunteers—easily,” says Oneill-Bliss. “Then, on top of that, we work closely with the town highway department, the police department, the fire department, and emergency medical services. It’s amazing how everyone comes together.”
“And we are so grateful for our sponsors, too,” says Adipietro, making special note of the race’s presenting sponsor Bridgehampton National Bank. “We would be lost without them. It really does take a village and the village surrounding Shelter Island is just the best.”
The Shelter Island Run will return for its 39th race on Saturday, June 16. You can register to run online here—or in person on the day of the race. For more information on the race and its schedule, please visit the Shelter Island Run website.