Saturday Spotlight – Gina Vaccaro (7/25/20)

Saturday Spotlight

Name – Gina Vaccaro

Age – 28

Marital status – Engaged

Kids – Hooper, a beagle puppy with more personality and sass than most people

Pets – See above

Occupation – Principal’s secretary at Idle Hour Elementary in Connetquot School District

Hobbies – Boating, traveling, cooking (love trying new recipes), & reading

Hometown – Oakdale

Current Town – Oakdale (I moved 1.8 miles )

College – St. Joe’s & James Madison University

Favorite Race – New Balance Bronx 10 Mile

Good morning all! I’m going to start off by admitting that I am incredibly nervous to be your Warrior of the Week so thank you in advance for reading. I completely understand if I bore you to tears! I would like to give a huge “thank you” to Lou for not only asking/pestering me to tell my story through WOTW, but for every ounce of effort he puts forth for Selden Hills. This group has made an impact on my life in such a short amount of time and I can’t thank him enough for that. Over the past year and a half, I’ve challenged and pushed myself more than ever, to the point where I’ve surprised even myself! The continual hard work has paid off in so many ways. I’ve accomplished PR’s and surpassed goals that I never thought possible (especially for someone who is fairly new to the running world). While PR’s can become enticing to chase, that’s not the real reason I run. I’ve learned (with the help of Selden Hills of course) that running gives me a sense of stability, worth, relief, and control.

Still with me? Wonderful! Let’s begin. I was four years old when my (failed) athletic career took off. Like most kiddos around that age, I was enrolled in a youth soccer program. Maybe it was to broaden my athletic horizons or maybe it was to burn some energy running around a field, instead of my parents’ house. Either way, my parents thought this was a great idea. Four year old Gina would disagree. Also at that time (and up until college), I was painfully shy. At that age, I was scared of any and all adults and very quiet (I’m sure some people miss those days). The day of my first soccer game, I arrived on the field ready to play. I’m not sure what happened between then and the first whistle blow, but it was not pretty. While on the field, I realized soccer is not for me and did the only rational thing I could do to get out of it: cry. Not only does that work with soccer, but I learned later in life that it gets you out of speeding tickets too! I’ll say the only difference is that a cop won’t give you orange slices and a Capri-Sun to stop the tears.

After the soccer disaster, I joined dance. I think what sold me was the lack of running. I started with one class per week and slowly moved to 2-3 times a week. By the time I was ten I joined a competitive travel team. Dance consumed most aspects of my life and looking back, I don’t always think I had the same school experience as everyone else. Taking the bus home? Can’t! I have to be at the dance studio at 4:00 pm. School ski trip? Can’t! If I am injured there goes my competition season! Friday night party because someone has a fake ID? No can do! I have to be at the studio at 7:00 am Saturday mornings. I had few friends in school because there weren’t many opportunities to see them outside of school with my dance schedule and school work responsibilities. Towards the end of my senior year, I was burnt out, anxious, and feeling depressed. It dawned on me that the severity of my instructors’ expectations was borderline abusive. The yelling, weigh-ins, body measurements, and focus on winning was so common I viewed this as normal. The TV show “Dance Moms” on Lifetime is not far off! I knew I was not going to become a professional dancer and that my senior year would be the end of an era. I made a vow to (try to) put myself and my health first. It is still a work in progress and something that I work on daily!

During college I focused mainly on my school work and my partying. There was no mention of dance, or any other form of fitness for that matter. I was not liking the person who I saw in the mirror, physically and mentally. During my junior year of college, I auditioned for my college’s dance team and was accepted. I carefully reviewed the requirements and what was expected of a team member, careful to not go down the same route as I previously did. That dance team ended up making my last two years of college truly memorable. I was a part of a team that valued each of its members first and put “winning” second.

After college I was a lost puppy dog and didn’t have much direction fitness-wise. My mom is an avid gym goer and convinced me to join her at Lucille Roberts for a Zumba class. I enjoyed how closely it resembled the structure of a dance class and ended up signing up for a two-year membership on the spot (to this day I’m not sure of the sorcery that the Lucille Roberts’ sales rep possessed). I would try different classes and eventually made my way to the fitness equipment where I dabbled in arm/leg machines, free weights, and my unrequited love: the treadmill. In case anyone wants a laugh, I would do 10 minutes of arms, 10 minutes of legs, and a mile on the treadmill at 4.0. I graduated to running outside and once a week would do a “long run” of 4 miles. I still giggle when I think of the beginning of my “fitness journey” but more importantly I am proud of myself for sticking to it and kicking some ass along the way.

2013 was my first race and I participated in the Smiles Turkey Trot 5k at Corey Beach. I’m not sure what possessed me to sign up for it. I’m not sure what possesses me to do a lot of running related things actually. That morning it started snowing/hailing to make a picturesque running course! If only 2020 Gina could tell 2013 Gina that you will never have any luck with race day weather and to learn to deal with it. From there, I went on to run a few local/short distance races. You could not get me to run farther than 4 miles. (HAHAH) I progressed to races of longer distances and ran my first marathon in 2018 (stay tuned- more of that on Monday!) On a (torrential downpouring) Sunday in April, I ran my first classic with the Selden Hills Warriors and it’s been a wonderful running journey ever since.

Have I bored you yet? I sure hope not! This will be the last of today, I promise. As you are all aware, 2020 was and has not been kind to us. This year was going to be “my year.” 2020 took from me my wedding, all events leading up to it, vacations, our honeymoons to Antigua and Oktoberfest in Germany, Berlin Marathon, and the cherry on top my first NYC Marathon. I cried each time I had to cross out an event in my planner. I was at my lowest point since the “lost puppy dog post-college Gina” in paragraph five. I mentally and physically could not handle the unknown aspects and what it could mean with having our wedding. I would sit in front of my tv every day around 11:45 am waiting to hear what dreadful update or new restriction would follow. It became addicting. Chris would call me every day while working at that time just to check on me. As the days went on he started calling me asking for favors around the house such as checking the water heater, the boat, etc. Why wouldn’t he do these things himself?! He later admitted to calling and giving me chores was the only way he could remotely deter me from watching the daily briefings. (He’s really the best) I fell for it and from that point forward gained a new perspective on 2020. So what if my calendar has enough “X’s” through plans to look like a tic-tac-toe board and no scheduled races in sight? We have our health, and our jobs, everything else in the world is secondary. Not to mention the love and support from my family, friends, and most of all the warriors. You each inspire me to be a better person and runner every day.

Enough rambling already, enjoy your Saturday!