Running the talk
BY Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer
When it comes to health and fitness, Connie Comiso-Fanelli won't accept the notion that you can be too busy for a workout. Jobs, children and chores get her worst rebuttal.
"It sounds like a lot of excuses," she said.
But the 54-year-old Comiso-Fanelli can offer her own life as a compelling example of what's possible: She's a nurse, teacher and running coach, a single mother raising a teenage son and a competitor who still wins her age group at local road races.
"We're all busy with time constraints — so am I," she said. "But it is important for your health and sanity to make time for yourself. If I don't take care of myself, I can't be a good mother or a good nurse or a good girlfriend. I would be grumpy. I want to be fast and happy."
It goes beyond self, though.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle allows parents to be a good role model for their children, Comiso-Fanelli said. She often encourages the parents of her Punahou School cross country team and her Pac 5 track team to take a walk or run while waiting for practice to finish.
"You can't be a good role model if you are not walking your talk, in this case, running," she said.
Comiso-Fanelli started running in 1978, when she was a student at the University of Hawai'i. It was a radical change. She had been a smoker since high school, where she sang and danced, and her diet was full of fatty foods and beer. At one point, the 5-foot-4 Comiso-Fanelli weighed about 140 pounds.
Disgusted with herself, she started running. Three months later, Comiso-Fanelli completed the Hilo Marathon in a time many veteran runners would envy — 3:47.
From there, her competitive instincts took over and Comiso-Fanelli continued running marathons. She's finished more than 100 marathons during her running career and has also won the grueling 36.2-mile race to the summit of Haleakalā several times.
And she brought her weight down to 105 pounds.
"I'm competitive by nature," she said. "Ever since I can remember, I always wanted to be the best in what I did. I graduated as outstanding student of the year at Kailua High School. I didn't know I was getting the award because I was in the library."
Even after 32 years, running still dominates her life.
Comiso-Fanelli, who lives in Mānoa with her 14-year-old son, Gary Fanelli Jr., a promising middle-distance runner at Damien Memorial School, typically runs 40 to 45 miles a week. That includes the short run from wherever she can find parking at Punchbowl to The Queen's Medical Center.
On weekends, she races regularly as a member of Faerber's Flyers, a women's running club she helped found in 1980. She typically runs three marathons a year and plans to compete next month in the Kona Marathon.
But running offers more than physical health for Comiso-Fanelli.
"I think exercise is not only good for your body but also for your soul," she said. "My favorite run of all time is still Tantalus. The roads and the trail — it is very serene. It is my time with God, my time to reflect."