Name : June Luciano
Age: 50 (that still stings!)
Son: Christian, age 19
Boyfriend: Charlie Long
Occupation: Certified Personal Trainer
When Lou asked me to be Warrior of the Week, I immediately went into panic mode. What am I going to write about? Is my life really that interesting? How am I going to fill up the page?! Well, this week I sat down and began to write, and write, and write. Got it all out. All my past demons. A rough childhood, never feeling secure or settled, moving non-stop, emotional and physical abuse, followed by failed marriages, miscarriages, depression, etc. etc., etc. As I read over my story, however, something struck me. Is this really what I want to focus on? Is this even who I am anymore? The answer is no. After much soul-searching, I decided what I wanted to focus on is running. How I got started and where it has led me.
Early pain and difficulties are a common thread in many of our warrior stories, and I believe it’s that painful beginning that led many of us to seek out something greater. I know for me it did. My earliest memory, when I was about 3 or 4 years old, is of sitting in front of the television watching Jack LaLanne. I absolutely loved him. I would try to get my little body to follow his exercises as best as I could. Sometimes my mom would join me. That is the happiest memory I have from that time in my life. Funny that years later I would end up with a career as a personal trainer! I guess that memory always stuck with me. As I grew up, I loved physical activity. Riding bikes, climbing trees, swimming, playing ball, anything and everything I could do to be out playing with friends. I was even one of those rare kids who looked forward to gym class! I also loved dancing, took classes whenever I could, but with being moved around so much, it was hard to really get established in any one group. That was until high school. Finally in high school I was able to feel like a part of something. I tried out for and happily made our school’s kickline team. We were awesome! Long Island Champions in both my junior and senior year. Nothing had ever fulfilled me like being a part of that team. The camaraderie, the excitement, the strive for excellence. It was everything I dreamed it would be.
I practiced day and night, even started choreographing our team’s routines from time to time. Finally, I fit in. Then high school ended. I joined a team in college but it was not the same. So my activity level plummeted. I gained the freshman 15, and my diet was basically pizza, candy bars, and a lot of alcohol. Not a good combination.
Once school ended, however, I got my act together and started taking aerobics classes. Again I found something I loved. I would stand in the front row at every class and give it all I had. I even started some light weight lifting. The gym was my place, my haven. I loved the people, the enthusiasm, everything about it. That love of fitness stayed with me throughout the years. I remember being 9 months pregnant and doing squats at Eastern Athletic Club (where I now work!) two days before I gave birth! After having my son, I decided to step it up and hire a personal trainer. That changed the course of my life. I knew without a doubt that this was what I wanted to do. The trainer I went to was very encouraging and taught me everything she knew. I studied for months, got certified, and started what has become an incredibly fulfilling career. Hard to believe that was almost 20 years ago!
Although I was very fit, I was never a runner. After my divorce, I briefly dated a man that was a runner. One day we were on a beach in Florida and he suggested we go for a mile run down the beach. Sure, I said, how hard could it be? Well, was I in for a surprise! I was so embarrassed. Here I was a fitness trainer, and I couldn’t run a mile without huffing and puffing. I was determined to get better at this running thing. It took a while for me to get started, the relationship soon ended, but I had this nagging feeling inside me that I needed to start running.
Eventually, in 2008, I signed up for my first race, the Schwachman-Diamond Dash 5k in Sayville. I didn’t train for it, just showed up. One of my clients happened to be there and she and I ran the race together (well, mostly walked, but we made it!). I thought it was the hardest thing I’d ever done. The worst part was that runner that I had dated was there. It had been years since I’d seen him, and as I was walking down Sayville Boulevard to the turning point, he came running along the other side laughing and shaking his head at me. I laughed back, but inside I was so steamed that I couldn’t run like that. My finish time in that first race was 32:30.
From that point on I started to run. I formed a small group of clients that wanted to start running and every Saturday morning in Sayville we’d run a 5k. Each at our own pace, but we all finished. One of those clients was my now dear friend, Rich Sallustro. How far we’ve come!! I started doing more and more races and even placing in my age group on a not so infrequent basis! I was hooked! A friend at the gym encouraged me to try and train for a marathon. A marathon? No way! He was part of a team called Team Lima. I’d see them at races and to me they were running Gods. They were so fast! How did they runs so fast?! I wasn’t anywhere near at their level and made every excuse under the sun not to train with them.
In the meantime, my dear friend Amy Foy Williamson started running too. In her first year of running she signed up and ran the Diva Half Marathon. I was so impressed! The following year I signed up to run it with her, along with Danielle Barrington. I still remember my first 8 mile run with Amy. All I did was complain! It was so hard, I barely made it through. She, doll that she is, was so kind and encouraging, and actually still ran with me after that day!
As time went on, I decided to try and go for a training run with Team Lima. One of the members was Joe Caliguri. I remember that first training run well. They ran every Sunday at Heckscher Park. The first day I showed up, they were running two 7 mile loops. I was a couple of weeks away from doing my first half, so why not give it a try? I did and it was amazing! The difference having a group to run with made was incredible. The miles just flew by. From that Sunday forward, I trained with Team Lima every week. It didn’t matter if there was a blizzard and snow up to our knees, we ran. It was wonderful. Through our training, Joe Caliguri and I hit it off and ended up becoming really good friends. We started doing most of our training and races together. He helped me to become the runner that I am today. Thank you to you Joe for all your encouragement, pushing me when I didn’t think I could go on, and for all the conversations that got me through those long runs! All that winter we kept hearing about this group that ran the Selden hills. We kept saying we should try that but kept putting it off. Then one week Joe went and ran them with Rob Festa. He came back saying we really should start doing some training there. That same week Kristine Densing, Amy and I did the Long Beach 10- miler. Krissy also was going on about the Selden hills and how great the group was. I believe I met KC Brett at that run and a couple of other hillbillies. Everyone seemed so nice, I dediced to give it a try. So on May 29, 2013, I took to the hills. It was the hardest run I’d ever done, but I kept coming back for more. As I got to know my fellow hillbillies, I knew I’d found my place, my people. Not since my days in high school have I felt more proud to be part of a team. I admire each and every one of you, your dedication to being more than average, your hard work and endless training. Your unconditional support for one another.
I have made some amazing friends in this group, people I know will be in my life forever. I’m also so lucky that some of my best friends from before I started running are a part of this team. Kim Russo, Amy Williamson, Rich Sallustro, this means you!
One of the biggest surprises, something I never expected, was meeting the love of my life on this team, Charlie Long. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to share my passion for running/triathlons with the man of my dreams.
Lou, thank you doesn’t seem like a big enough word to express my gratitude to you for starting this group. Your doing that has changed so many of our lives for the better. It proves that one person can really make a difference in the lives of so many.
Oh, and on a closing note, I’d just like to mention one thing. Remember that runner guy I dated that laughed at me during my first 5k? Well, I have smashed every one of his records, beating him in the 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon! Thanks for reading!