The Shelter Island 10K is, and was especially this year, a living symbol of all that is right with America, a country that is not without its faults, but which at its best remains as inspiring as it ever was.
To begin with, there was Meb Keflezighi, the first American to have won the Boston Marathon in more than 30 years, a native-born Eritrean whose father brought his children here from that Red Sea country so that they might escape the maw of endless war, so that they would have a chance to be — as Keflezighi told young runners at the Shelter Island School the day before the race — the best they could be.
His dream became reality the day he won Boston, said the very personable champion, who by winning overcame the inevitable restraint of age — he was a 38-year-old up against younger men who had run faster times — and who, by winning there, where deathly bombs had gone off the year before, said in effect that the hope liberty confers cannot be hacked apart by those who hate.
Incredibly, some questioned afterward whether he really were an American, when, in fact, Meb, as he is known, who has been a United States citizen since 1998, is what I would like to think of as quintessentially American, as ambitious for others as for himself, a supreme competitor and uniter.
I see this in Cliff Clark too, the Shelter Island 10K’s founder. A great competitor himself, he understands that ultimately it is both striving and sharing that matter, that we are, indeed, all in this together, and that if this country deteriorates — as, indeed, it sometimes seems to me — into everyone for himself, it will be the end of the game, the end of the dream.
Remember the dead — as Shelter Island did the other day, mourning again a young man, First Lt. Joe Theinert, struck down in Afghanistan four years ago — remember the living, remember and care for one another, and run the good race.
That at its best is America, and that is what I would like to think Meb was thinking as he entered Fiske Field, on his 4 minute and 53 second marathon pace, waving the American flag.