By Joe Werkmeister,
THE next time Yonas Mebrahtu runs a competitive race, he may employ a new, unusual strategy: no sleep. Such was the case before Saturday’s Shelter Island 10,000 for the champion of the 35th annual race.
A native of Eritrea, a small east African country that borders the Red Sea, Mebrahtu’s journey to Shelter Island took him on a long path leaving him no time for rest.
He flew from Flagstaff, Ariz. into Boston, landing around 10 p.m. Friday and then drove to Newark, arriving around 4 a.m.
“I didn’t even sleep,” he said. “I just came right away.”
His next stop was Shelter Island, his first time ever running the prestigious race. While much of the pre-race hype centered around another Meb, it was the 26-year-old Mebrahtu who crossed the finish line first in 29 minutes, 6 seconds, just ahead of 29-year-old Isaac Kitur in 29:10.
Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi, running his first race since his inspirational win in Boston, clocked in fourth in 30:24.
The 39-year-old, who was the first American to win the Boston Marathon since 1983, spoke to the crowd before the start of the race, offering a few inspirational words.
“I know you guys did not set your alarm clock because it’s not your typical morning run,” he said. “You have your lunch, ready to go, you’ve done the training. The last mile is going to dedicated to soldiers who pass away, let’s think about that. I know a 10K does hurt. When it hurts, just know that we are able to do the things we do. Finish strong.”
While Keflezighi has excelled in the marathon — he won silver in the 2004 Olympics — Mebrahtu proved to be stronger in the shorter distance. Mebrahtu said he mainly runs 10Ks and half marathons.
“10K you have to have more speed,” Mebrahtu said in comparing the race to the marathon.
Last month, Mebrahtu won the Brooklyn Half Marathon in 1:04:23.
Mebrahtu figures to sleep well tonight, and he’ll need his rest. He’s scheduled to run a half marathon in Connecticut tomorrow.
Mebrahtu ran in college at Iowa State University before transferring to Graceland University where he excelled on the track teams.