Saturday Spotlight- Rachel Dengel

Name: Rachel Dengel
Age: 42
Hometown: Dix Hills
Current town: East Rockaway (not Far Rockaway, EAST Rockaway)
Marital Status: Married (Steve)
Children: Maximilian (Max) age 10; Madelyn (Maddie) age 7
Pets: No way Jose!
Occupation: 6th Grade teacher

Hello fellow hillbillies! I am a distant hillbilly who travels an hour once a month or so to get on those mean crazy hills! So, I admire those who frequent the hills, while I am thankful to live in flat south shore Nassau County.

I was born in 1975 to a Jewish mom and a Colombian father. I was raised as an only child, but I do have 2 half-brothers… One lives in Colombia where he was born and raised, the other lives in California, and I only learned of him when I was 21 years old. I also have 2 step brothers and a step sister. I married a man who is one of 6, so although I grew up alone… I acquired lots of siblings along the way .

As a kid, I hated sports and gym was my least favorite subject. It was the embarrassing class where I would trip over my own two feet, get hit in the head with the ball during volleyball because I was afraid of it, and I was of course last to be picked for the team by the captains at the start of class. As a teenager, gym class became the class I cut to go smoke cigarettes behind the bleachers with my friends. In college, I was thrilled it was not a required class.

I went away to college at the University at Buffalo, and I visited the gym once after New Year’s Day when I was motivated to take off that “freshman 15” … It was a nice gym, but I only saw it once in 4 years because I just found exercise to be a form of torture. I moved back home after 4 years in Buffalo to attend CW Post for grad school, where I got my teaching degree.

I began teaching in 1999, and I became a 6th grade teacher in Freeport in September 2000, where I have been teaching sixth grade ever since. I met my husband in 2004, we got engaged in 2006. Shortly after our engagement, an Acoustic Neuroma tumor was discovered in my husband’s head. It was definitely a scary time in our lives. He had a successful tumor removal surgery in November of 2006, which he came out of unscathed with the exception of hearing loss in one ear. To tell you the truth, I am sure he is thankful for that hearing issue being married to loud never stops talking me lol. We were married in April 2007, and our son was born in November 2007, exactly one year after his surgery. Yes, I know if you do the math, you might figure out that Max was 6 weeks in utero as I walked down the aisle on the lovely beach in Islamorada at our destination wedding in the Florida Keys.

2010, enters Maddie, my daughter. I now had a 2-year-old and baby and learned what true mommy stress was and my post baby body made me feel old and unhealthy. My mother was over one afternoon to help me with the kids, and I decided to go for a walk. That walk became a jog walk, and I thought “Hey maybe if I run a little, I’ll lose weight faster. Besides it feels kind of good to be by myself without a kid attached to my hip or boob” My sister-in-law, Lori Karchinski, lived about a mile away and offered to go for run/walks with me. Well, those run/walks became runs as she pushed me more and more and pushed me to do my first 5K in 2011. After that, we signed up for a few more races together….

As time went on, running became a part of my routine and something I did just for me. I met a friend, (also named) Rachel, in a kickboxing class and she mentioned wanting to try a 5k race. So, we signed up together, along with my friend Linda Heffez Sarfati. It felt great to motivate someone else to run a race. She took off too! We convinced each other to sign up for a 10K, and we ran the Long Island Marathon 10K in May 2014. I walked away from that race saying, “That was awesome! We are so ready for a Half Marathon!” Four months later, I ran my first half marathon, The Diva Half. Fast forward to 2017, and I have now run 4 total half marathons. But, still not convinced I’d ever graduate to a full….

OK, now I have to share how I became a Selden Hills Warrior … At some point in my journey of becoming a runner, my brother in law, Paul Motherbox Dengel, said to me, “Hey there’s a really cool race out in Suffolk County we should try. I heard it is like the Cow Harbor Race but more fun.” So, blindly, without knowing anything about the Selden Hills, I figured “Hey why not, Cow Harbor was tough, but fun, and they had beer at the end.” I convince a few other friends to join me and we sign up.

The day before the race, I go to pick up my race number (Still knowing nothing of these hills), I asked at packet pick up, “So, how tough are these hills?” The guy looked at me and laughed and said “Um you haven’t seen them? OK well have you done Cow Harbor, yes, ok great, it’s like Cow Harbor only the hills are much steeper and there are more of them.” Due to a snow storm that night, the race was canceled and rescheduled for August (2015). Well, in August everyone I signed up for the race with was away. So, I showed up to the race alone and was maybe one of 10 people not wearing a red Hills shirt. I looked at the back of all these shirts and almost fell over when I saw the picture of the hills. But, I ran that race… Well I walked up a lot of those hills and managed to get it done in a little under 1:15. I vowed never to tackle those hills again…. But, they just kept calling me. So, when my friend Mary-Kate Gunther Robinson moved out to Stony Brook (she is quite the runner) I told her about the Selden Hills and we made a date to meet there. After that, I discovered the FB page and Lou… The rest is history.
***side note…. This webpage is the only place EVER I would ever make a date to meet 50 miles from home to run, and feel completely safe.
Credit to Jon-Michael Frisch for being the first stranger (non danger) running buddy I ever met on the hills. Turned out to be a cool dude and running partner