Sure, there have been bigger stages for Anthony Famiglietti than the wooded plains of Heckscher State Park in East Islip. But breaking tape always feels good, no matter the stakes.
After all, he is a two-time Olympian, competing in the steeplechase in the 2004 Athens Games, where he placed eighth and the 2008 Beijing Games, placing 13th.
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But Famiglietti, 36, who grew up in Medford and lives in North Carolina, chose a more local route Sunday morning when he won the inaugural Suffolk County Half Marathon in 1 hour, 7 minutes, 35 seconds.
"I wanted under 1:08, but I went out in five minutes flat," Famiglietti, who also won Northport's Great Cow Harbor 10K in 2005, said. "That's a 1:05 pace. I figured that if it was a great day, if it wasn't that humid, if the course wasn't as hilly, and I had some good folks to go with, I could maybe do 1:05."
And, for a while, that goal seemed reachable.
"I felt great at 1:05 through about seven miles or so," he said. "I was about 5:02 average through eight miles. Then we started to hit hills. They were a lot steeper than I thought they were going to be. It really hit me hard. It wasn't just one hill and a break. It was a continuous up and down."
Once Famiglietti got to the 10-mile mark, nestled in the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River, things got a bit tougher.
"It was just soft gravel," he said. "It just killed your legs. It was like running through quick sand. I lost a lot of time though there. It would have been 1:06, if I had stayed on the road and it was a little more even through there."
The win was yet another notch in a career that, stretching back to his days at Patchogue-Medford High School, has been defined by hard work.
"It means a lot," said Famiglietti, who operates his own running apparel business in North Carolina. "I've always had a lot of challenges. It was always difficult for me to try and run well. In high school, I wasn't the greatest runner. I really had to work really hard to eventually be a Suffolk champion in cross country. I'd get up to states and I still wasn't really there yet, talent-wise. I'd get up to states and wouldn't place that well."
In fact, Famiglietti said he almost called it a career after the first day of cross country practice as a high school sophomore.
"We did a three-mile time trial," he said. "I had to walk a lot of it. I was one of the last runners on the team. I tried to quit that day."
But he didn't.
"Look how far I went with it," he said with a smile.
There's one more hurdle Famiglietti would like to clear before hanging up his competitive shoes for good -- a full marathon.
"After today, as challenging as the course was, and as little training as I did [averaging only 50 miles a week], I think I could probably run a 2:10 on a great day and, on a pretty good day, maybe a 2:14," he said. "That would be good for me. In the past, I probably would have been able to go a lot faster. I'd be happy with anything over there. It's not elite anymore, but it would be fun."