Tony Cannonito, 51, has lived in Valley Stream since 1962,...

Tony Cannonito, 51, has lived in Valley Stream since 1962, and became president of the Valley Stream Running Club in January. (Oct. 25, 2012) Credit: Handout

Tony Cannonito, 51, has lived in Valley Stream since he was a baby and became president of the Valley Stream Running Club in January. The club has 60 members, running, walking and cycling at places like Hendrickson Park and Valley Stream State Park.

How did the Valley Stream Running Club get its start?

The club started back in 1979. I believe that it was started by a group of people who ran on their own in Valley Stream and wanted to formalize their group to attract more runners. I joined in the 1990s. It’s not just people from Valley Stream who run with us -- people come from Malverne, Rockville Centre and Farmingdale.

Is the club concerned with the dangers of running/biking on major road arteries, or on roads in Valley Stream?

The vast majority of our runs take place at Hendrickson Park and Valley Stream State Park. At Hendrickson, running around the lake is one mile. It really is a good, safe place for people to run, walk and in some cases ride their bike. We sometimes run at Norman J. Levy Park & Preserve in Merrick to get the hill workout, or even Alley Pond Park in Queens. At certain points, we do end up crossing major roadways, but after getting familiar with the routes, members know how and where to run and all the hazardous points of the trip.

How did you personally get involved in running?

For me, it started as exercise. I was not a runner, so I started walking in Hendrickson Park and gradually converted to running. I just wanted to get out there, clear my head and get some exercise. At first, I would see a pack of runners pass me and they would later ask me to join them, but I was too afraid that I couldn’t keep up. Eventually, I met up with them and started running along with them. Now, I run five times a week, three miles to 10 miles at a time. I’ve done three marathons; one on Long Island, another in Maryland and one in Connecticut. It was a personal goal of mine when I hit 40 years old to run a marathon.

How much are the annual club dues and what is the money used for?

We collect $20 annually from each member and the money collected goes back to the members in one way or another. It subsidizes relay races we’re involved in or breakfast at meetings.

What are some of your goals for the club?

The primary goal for 2012 has been to stabilize and build up our membership. This is to keep one of Valley Stream’s best-kept secrets, the running club, still going. This year is about stabilizing and growing membership by updating our Facebook page, improving our website and making it easy for the community to find us. In 2013, we want to re-establish a race that used to take place in Valley Stream years ago. It would be a 5K or 4-mile run.

For those of us who are not great runners, but are looking to get involved in something within the community, what would you say to us?

The biggest concern for newcomers is if they can keep up with us or if they’ll hold back the group. The nice thing about this club is that we have people running at all different paces, which is perfect for beginners. Newcomers just need to set realistic goals for themselves.

What makes Valley Stream so conducive to running, walking or cycling?

If one does a complete loop of Hendrickson Park and the state park you’ll get in over three miles. You’ll also see the lake, stream and heavily wooded areas along the way. You get a little bit of everything. Valley Stream is the perfect place for a running club.