Saturday Spotlight- Rich Sparacin

Name: Rich Sparacin
Age: 39
Spouse: Kathleen Bates Sparacin
Pups: Buddy and Jax ( Two Portuguese Waterdogs)
Occupation: Claims Supervisor at GEICO
Hometown: Holbrook
Current Town: Holbrook
College: UNLV
Hobbies: Running, Beer, Golf, TV and Movies

First, thanks to Lou LaFleur for recognizing my inner Warrior and seeing me worthy of being your Warrior of the Week! Also thanks to everyone I’ve been running with over the last 2 years, you’ve all made me a better runner.

For anyone who knows me, I’m a pretty outgoing person who is not shy when it comes to meeting people. Growing up I made friends with just about anyone. For example, in high school, my two best friends were the starting quarterback of the football team and a member of the high school band. When my wife and I go on vacation, you can make a safe bet that we will befriend the oldest couple around. With that said, I’m not great with attention on me…this coming from the guy with a Hulk Hogan Pose every time a camera is pointed at him, I know, but it’s true. I hate mowing the lawn when my neighbors are out, or shoveling snow. It’s that over the shoulder feeling I hate when you feel like all eyes are on you….so here goes.

Let’s start from the beginning….the very beginning!

Like many of the previous WOTW’s, I was born a baby. Unfortunately, I couldn’t run …in fact, I couldn’t crawl but I didn’t let that get me down! Once I walked, I couldn’t stop. I was a wanderer. I wandered so much that it caused my first accident when I was walking down to my basement and fell through the stairs. Either the baby gate was left opened or they hadn’t been invented yet.

Throughout my childhood I wasn’t much of an athlete or a runner. Sure, I’d run and play Hide and Seek or Kick the Can and I dabbled with Little League baseball for two years but that’s about it. I was more involved with Atari and Nintendo. Yea, I said Atari! Huge fan of Yars Revenge. You could probably say Mrs. PAC Man was my first girlfriend.

There weren’t a lot of kids my age on my street and most of my school friends lived in another development so unless I or a friend was getting a ride, my after school activity became watching TV. I watched a lot of TV. Family Ties, Who’s The Boss, the Golden Girls, reruns of The Brady Bunch at 4:35 PM on TBS, you name it…I probably watched it! I loved watching movies too. I know a lot of people like to read books and use their own imagination to visualize the story but honestly, I like seeing someone’s vision on the big screen. I also liked writing stories, probably because I used my imagination to build my story. In 6th Grade I wrote a short story called Hippie Halloween, it was a horror story about a bunch of flower power hippies who were killed by a bunch of townspeople in the late 60’s who rise from the dead 25 years later as zombies and wreck havoc on the town.

John Lennon once described himself as having a “fat Elvis” era in life. For me, that was Junior High. I was a short pudgy kid with no athletic ability. Friends were few and far between. For any kid, this could make or break your life sought to speak. My two years in junior high are the only two years I did not engage with other people. I wasn’t depressed, I was just content with going home and being by myself. Eventually my father talked a lot of sense in me and my fat Elvis days were over.

It wasn’t until high school that I grew even a tiny interest in running. Throughout junior high and my freshman year, I was in the low level gym class. Running the mile for the physical fitness test seemed like a waste of time. When I entered my sophomore year, I took a look around at my gym class and realized most of my friends were in the high level gym class. So…I knew I had to put in the work. I started taking the mile seriously and made it a goal to finish under 6 minutes. Sure enough, the day of the “real” mile I did something like 5:50. That solidified my entry into the high level class. Of course, I had to stay there so I couldn’t get lazy.

In my senior year, I was persuaded to join the Track team. Other then little league baseball, this was my first time joining some sort of sports team. Honestly, I joined because I had a lot of friends on the team already and going to Sachem High School, my place on the team would be more of an afterthought but I didn’t care. Now for some reason, the coach thought that a 5’6” kid with short legs and no real experience would make for another sprinter on an overly crowded field of sprinters. OK…who was I to say, I’m new and doing this more to hang out anyways. Well…I started enjoying the running. I loved running the longer distances. I felt my endurance was getting stronger and my speed on distance was getting better. After several next to last place finishes, I was finally able to go to the long distance runs. Once I started competing in the 1600, my times started improving to the point where I finished with a 4:53 Mile (never to be repeated again.)

Track was the birth of the finish line pose. While running the sprints and finishing near last place, I would finish the race with my arms raised as if I won the race. Then I thought, if I do it an invitational, maybe Newsday will see my positive spirit and toss me in the high school sports section. Never happened but I kept doing it and it eventually evolved to what it is today, the Hulk Hogan pose. I am indeed a true Hulkamaniac and let the power of Hulkamania run through my veins as I run!

High School ended, and sad enough, so did my running. I never stuck with it. After a few years of community college and work, I upped and moved across country to Las Vegas. I got my degree from UNLV in film and in 2007, moved back to New York. I got a job with an independent film studio, met my wife, left the studio, got my current job and go to work everyday at GEICO.

I met Kathleen on Match. I think we both knew right away that we had something. Both my friends and hers said that we were perfect for each other and they could not have been more right. We compliment each other so well. She got me into seafood, I turned her into a Hulkamaniac…we’re perfect for each other. You know she loves you when she agrees to come out to Hulk Hogan’s theme song and pose in front of all your wedding guests. I couldn’t imagine my life without her!

Fast forward to November 2015. My wife, who just ran her first 5K in October, asked me If I wanted to run with her at the Smiles Turkey Trot in Bayport. Sure, why not? Who would have thought that without any real attempts at running in 17 years that it would be a ridiculous struggle? I slugged my way through 3.1 incredibly long brutal miles in a little under 40 minutes. After I finished I was gasping for air. The next morning I was so sore I couldn’t move. My legs just would refuse to walk up a set of stairs. This was a 5K, not a marathon, it wasn’t even a 4 Miler! Next up, Santa Toy Trot in Patchogue…same result…St Patrick’s Day Run…yup, 40 minutes…notice a pattern?

Come September 2016, I moved from a day shift to a night shift at work. I was at my heaviest weight. With these new hours, I had more time during the day to do things. I figured, if I’m going to spend money and run these 5K races, I might as well train. From there, I made it my goal to run a marathon within a year. I started my training runs. I even tried my wife’s 21 Day Fix from Beach Body Works. I lasted a few weeks but I got annoyed because the host rarely did the full workouts. Running wise, each 5K saw better results. No more huffing and puffing. My long runs were getting longer. And the weight came off. Although I did not make my goal, I ran my first marathon in November of 2017….no, not that marathon…I ran Philly.

Running was fun but ultimately it wasn’t till I started joining run clubs that it became more then something to do. I started with Hoptron Running Club in April 2018. With Hoptron I was able to combine my love of running with my passion for craft beer. For anyone who hasn’t seen my posts, I have a love for a good craft beer. The best race is one with a delicious reward and by delicious…I mean beer! Sometimes White Castle or Chipotle but mostly beer! More so, running with a group is much more fun than a solo run.

October of 2018 I made my way down to the hills. I went for no other reason than to check these hills out. Truth be told, before I started running with the group, I rolled my eyes at the red shirts running past me in every race I ran. Just a hill, blah blah bIah I thought. My mind changed on my first run, a Wednesday morning run with the SILG ( Sorry fellow Vampires, I didn’t know about you yet.) I ran with KC Brett who showed me the ropes, told me about each big hill, and stayed with me the entire time. Then I ran a slaughterhouse with John Greene and Melissa Lynn. Melissa has become a fun running buddy to run with on our vampire runs. We give each other permission to go on without the other but it rarely ever happens. I give credit Melissa for teaching me to run without earbuds and talking during the run. Funny enough, if my history serves correct…and it does, Melissa credited KC for the same thing in her spotlight. I could have been a one and done on the hills but they presented me with a new challenge and another group to run with.

Like I mentioned earlier, the groups are what make running more fun. I have met so many terrific people in such a short time it’s amazing! The friendships are awesome but even better, so many of you have challenged me to be a better runner. I could name names but if I leave just one person out I will feel like a complete butt head! You all know who you are! You’re all awesome!

So that’s my story. I look to get more in-depth later this week but until then, have a stupendous day!

Saturday Spotlight- Deanna Figari

Name: Deanna Figari
Age: 36
Home Town: Hampton Bays
Current Town: Manorville
Family: Married to Jason for four years but together for ten or eleven years; Giovanna is our daughter who just turned two last weekend; we have a one year old Pit Bull mix named Carter who we adopted this past spring after losing our 5 year old Bull mastiff, Bauser, to cancer. Carter has helped us heal in so many ways. Nacho is my 10 year old pomeranian who I got when I still lived at home, which I call “the nest” and often will make reference to in naming many of my runs on Strava. Nacho still lives at the nest. He is my mom’s dog and has been ever since I moved out. It was the right thing to do by him for many reasons. He adores my mom and she spoils him like a true grandmother would do.

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Saturday Spotlight- Rich Poccia

Name: Rich Poccia

Age: 52

Married to Jacqueline Poccia

one 13 yr old child Elizabeth

current Hometown: Patchogue

originally from East Northport

work : Netsmart Technologies Software QA Anaylsis sr

years running : 3

hobbies – lots of them.

First off thank you Lou for asking me to do “Warrior of the Week”. When I was asked to do this, I was only with the group several months and asked to do an August WOW. and thought I am a newbie why me. However, being a gamer I said why not, so here i am still with the group and going strong.

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Saturday Spotlight- Susan Conners

Name: Susan Connors
Age: 54
Marital status: Married to Greg – fellow SHW
Children: Gregory and Melanie
Occupation: Court reporter
Hobbies: Running, traveling and reading
Home town: Great Neck
Current home town: Setauket

Thank you, Lou, for asking me to be “Warrior of the Week”. Thank you also for creating and leading the Selden Hills Warriors. It is an awesome feat, and it’s quite evident you pour your heart and soul into this amazing adventure!

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Saturday Spotlight- Elena Fezza

Name: Elena Fezza
Age: 39
Marital Status: Married almost 10 years
Children: Reese (7) and Casey (4) – both girls with unisex names
Occupation: Law Enforcement (NYPD)
Hobbies: Running, Reading, Hiking, Traveling (especially to see family), Drinks with friends
Hometown: Dover, DE (0-10)/Springfield (Delco), PA (10-17)
Current: Smithtown

When Lou asked me to be the WOTW my first instinct was to say no. I’m not great at these things but this is such a great group of people and all that Lou does for everyone in the group, I couldn’t say no.

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Saturday Spotlight- Amie Velez

Hi. I’m Amie 😁

Joined: November 4th 2018
Recruiters to SHW: Nichole Ellis and Olga Greene
Family: 1 son, Elias
Occupation: Configuration Management
College: Dowling
Hometown: Flushing
Current: Smithtown

Hobbies: Running, yoga, working out, crochet, and painting

I was really suprized when Lou asked me to be in the Spotlight and a little scared, ok a lot scared. I am naturally introverted and private so this is out of my comfort zone but I’m honored and have gotten endless motivation from this group so I decided to share anyway.

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