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.

Occupation: This Thursday will be the start of my 13th year of teaching middle school Spanish and French (12 at Hampton Bays Middle School and one at Greenport High School.) I’ve been the coach of the HBMS Track & Field team for nearly 10 years. I am also the fill-in photographer for the Wednesday 5am Vampire Run when Todd Metro is not there! 😊 This is a very important job; we all know the run didn’t happen if there’s no photo to prove it!
Hobbies: Running/racing, traveling, organizing all my photos (I love taking pictures but I am not a photographer!) strength-training (although this has taken its place on the back burner since the spring); being creative in any way I can, trying new recipes either cooking or baking but only if I have the time and don’t feel pressured.

I want to start this post by saying thank you to Lou for all of the incredible things he does to make our group such a unique, motivating, inclusive and FUN experience for all of us! I can say with confidence that if it weren’t for this group, my life would be completely different. I also would like to thank Lou for asking me to be WOTW. I know there are far more interesting stories to be shared than mine; I know because I have read so many WOTW posts and several of them still stick with me to this day and I am amazed and inspired by all of them. I hope Lou does not mind, but it’s kind of funny how he asked me to be WOTW. 😂 I have included screen shots of our conversation for you to see.

Okay so here goes…FYI this will probably be a long post!! I never considered myself an athlete of any kind when I was a kid in school. In fact, it makes me laugh now, thinking of the experiences I had on most teams, especially in middle school. (I laugh because I was so awful!) Even though I was not a good athlete, I have always had a strong sense of internal motivation. One of my earliest examples of this that I can remember is the rope climb in elementary school (6th grade.) We had two P.E. Teachers; Mrs. Romanowski and Mr. Steigerwald and they always wore matching windbreaker style jackets and the matching pants. Hers were light pink and his were blue. It was the early 90’s, so I am sure some of you can picture what they looked like. They were nice but strict with us and they always had fun things for us to do. The rope climb became a challenge for me. I remember that we were allowed to attempt the rope, but if Mrs. “Romo” thought you might be struggling, she’d yell for you to come down. She always yelled for me to come down. For what felt like weeks, I secretly worked towards climbing that rope to the top. I even wrote about it in my diary that I kept as a kid. Well one day, I knew I was ready and I went into the climb knowing I was going to do it. As I approached the top, I heard Mrs. Romo call out for me to come back down but I ignored her and I kept going. I slapped the ceiling, which confirmed I had made it, and I came back down. It seriously was my earliest sense of accomplishment and I remember feeling so proud and nothing felt better!

In 6th grade I played on a kiddie softball team called the Green Giants. Every time the ball was pitched and I was at bat, I’d swing, miss, and throw the bat. Every. Single. Time. They finally had to speak to me about this. I was so shy too. Afterwards, I’d swing and if I was lucky enough to hit the ball, I’d cling to the bat for a second or two, then drop it, then run. Total nightmare.
In 7th and 8th grade, I joined the basketball team. I was awful. Once, during a game, I remember running towards the basket with the ball; the court was wide open… and I could hear all my teammates cheering and I threw the ball and I made the basket!! But it was for the opponent! They weren’t cheering; they were screaming to turn around and that it wasn’t our basket but I was so lost in the moment. I was so embarrassed. That was in 7th grade. Why did I join again in 8th grade!!?!!!?! I do, however, remember that during a game against Westhampton, the score was 24-24 and we had a couple seconds left in the game and I was the only one open on the team (probably because the other team learned quickly that they didn’t need to worry about me) and my teammate passed me the ball and I chucked it towards the basket and it went in. Turns out it was a 3 pointer and it tied the game. Everyone was so happy but it was totally luck!

I don’t really remember who got me to join the Track and Field team in 9th grade, but this became the sport I did for all four years. I loved it and I wanted to challenge myself by choosing events that weren’t as popular as some of the others. At this time, our track was not equipped with pole vault or the steeple chase, but I have a feeling I would have chosen the steeple chase if it were an event at that time. So I chose the 400m hurdles, 100m hurdles, the 1500m run and the 4x400m relay as my main four events. I wasn’t the best at my events, but I wasn’t the worst. The fact that track and field seemed to be more of an “individual” sport was everything to me. I knew that we still worked together as a team, but the pressure of those other “team” sports was off! I would say that I loved Track & Field in HS, but like many things in HS, if I could go back now, I feel like I would do so much better! I was too busy with balancing my first jobs, school work, trying to be social, and making sure my nail polish was a different color every day 🤣 to really put 100% effort into the sport. My coach, Dave Oakley (who was also my art teacher from kindergarten through 6th grade) was a wonderful and soft-spoken coach who later inspired me in many ways in my own coaching. I remember that he used to really try to get us to go to the Saturday invitationals and he’d use medals as an incentive. He’d say, “this is a great opportunity; they are awarding medals six deep in [whatever event it was.]” I was not at all inspired by medals, but it is funny to me because nowadays I am all in if there is a gorgeous finisher’s medal!!
Side note- as a senior in HS, I decided to join the field hockey team. I only joined because all my friends were on the team. We had SO much fun but I was just as bad as I was when I played softball and basketball in middle school!

So I graduate high school and head to college and my running pretty much stops. I studied abroad several times during this time and when I wasn’t studying abroad, the only time I really did any running was on the treadmill at the gym on campus. I’d go a couple times a week but I hardly remember ever feeling like I actually pushed myself. The same happened after college when I moved back home. I’d use the treadmill for about a half an hour a couple times a week and barely break a sweat. It wasn’t actually until I started teaching at Hampton Bays Middle School that I got into running again. By the way, I had done Cross Country for one season as a HS sophomore and although I liked being out in the woods and running along pretty courses, I decided that it was too much work for me. So I’m pretty sure that the same year I started coaching the HBMS track and field team was the same year I started running our local Baymen 5k. I’ll never forget my time. It was a 24:26 and it was comparable to what I used to run during my one and only XC season. I also placed in my age group, which felt like the most amazing thing ever. So each year I would “get ready” for my 5k sometime in March by increasing my gym treadmill runs from 2 miles to 3 or 4 until May. Then I’d run the 5k again the following year and I’d improve my time. This went on for years. I did a couple other races here and there, including The Color Run in Brooklyn, Tunnel to Towers, and I did a couple Summer Run Series races- I definitely could not tell you what my times were for any of them.
Then for the fall of 2016 and 2017, I was given the opportunity to coach Boys Varsity Cross Country. I learned so much during these two seasons and I also took advantage of doing all my running with the team, rather than spending so much time at the gym afterwards. Around the same time, I had been asked to join a team for the Paumanok Pursuit and it was during that training (from January to April of 2016) when I started getting into races and longer distances. In fact, I saw Bobby R Moore at my gym and he was the one who told me that if I could do a 10+ mile training run in the woods, I could definitely do a half marathon and he told me about the Long Island Half Marathon, which was May 1st, 2016. My first half marathon.

I headed into Summer 2016 with not much of a plan for running, other than the Tier 2 Summer Run Series races. It was perfect because my mom and I had planned a big trip to Chile/Easter Island right in between the races. Not long after returning home, I had the Jones Beach 5 Miler, which was the last race of the series. I convinced my husband to come watch the race by making him a pizza; I wrapped the pieces in foil and put them in a plastic bag so that he would have something to eat as he waited for me to finish. It was at the finish line of this race where my life was forever changed. I saw my husband talking to this girl, with the bag of pizza in his hand. I went over to say hello and this girl says to me, “Hi, I’m Colleen. Have you ever run the Selden hills?” Colleen Thompson

To be continued…