Young runner knows being different is a good thing

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Nick Vicinanza (number 387) runs with the pack during the Southold Athletic Association’s 5K and Fun Run.

As he followed the course during the Southold Athletic Association’s 5K & Fun Run earlier this month, 10-year-old fifth-grader Nick Vicinanza wasn’t running only for himself.

Nick, who was born with cerebral palsy, took to the street for everyone who falls outside the norm.

With a condition that affects how he runs and walks, Nick trained for the race to prove to himself and his peers that he could do it, despite his perceived differences.

“I almost like being different because you’re your own person and you’re just a special individual,” he said just before the race. He said he has always tried to help others shake the feeling that somehow they are outsiders — a problem he said he once faced, though it seems to be fading as time goes on.

“Some people used to make me feel like I’m not included, but not so much anymore,” said Nick. “I guess it’s because I’m getting older and they don’t really care as much.”

He said he decided to participate in the race two months ago and approached his mother, Lisa, to ask if he could. She agreed after he told her he felt he could do it, even after she explained to him it was just over a three-mile run.

“When he watched it two years ago, he said, ‘Mom, I want to do this,” Ms. Vicinanza said. “He’s always a big supporter of Southold, so he likes to participate in anything that has to do with his school or town. He’s always said he feels so lucky to live here.”

Nick said it’s not just the nice beaches and town that make Southold a great place to live, the people and his school are among its major assets.

“He’s a very bright and responsible boy,” his mother said of Nick, a fraternal twin. “He’s a real go-getter. He loves to achieve.”

During the two months leading up to the race, Nick said he trained with a physical therapist to get himself in shape for the race. His goal, he said, was not only to finish, but to do so under an hour.

“We used to have this training schedule of doing a certain amount of running and walking every other day,” Nick said. “For the past few weeks we’ve just been running and walking as much as we could.”

Ms. Vicinanza said the family couldn’t wait for race day to arrive.

“We’re all very anxious for it,” she said. “He’s going to complete it, there’s no question about it. He has a goal to finish it in an hour and I believe he will, but I’ve been telling him that time is not important. This is something he really wants to prove to himself he can do. He gets questions now that he’s older if there’s something wrong with his foot or if something happened to his knee. He’s at the age where he wants his peers to know why he’s a little bit slower or why he walks a little bit different and this is a good way to show his friends that just because he may be different from them, he can do what they can do.”

On race day, Nick was all smiles and began the race with a bang, more than keeping up with the pack as he strode down Oaklawn Avenue.

And just 47 minutes later, he was crossing the finish line, achieving both his goals.

“I finished the 5K and I had a great time,” said Nick. “It was an awesome experience.”

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