While President Joe Biden occasionally heads to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for some R & R, vacationing was the last thing on Stephanie Savastano’s mind when she arrived there last December.
The Perkasie masters runner was in town to run her first marathon and, at age 42, wasn’t sure what to expect.
Maybe that was a good thing.
Savastano, co-champion of last year’s Bucks 5K Series, decided to start off with the 3:25 pace group, opting for a cautious approach.
But she liked the flat and pretty straight course so much she wound up completing the 26.2-mile distance in a brilliant 3:14, a time which qualified her for the 2023 Boston Marathon.
Perhaps that performance shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, she broke the 20-minute barrier in a virtual 5K a couple years back at age 40 and there aren’t too many masters female striders who carry those numbers on their resume.
“I had never been interested in the marathon,” said Savastano during a telephone conversation. “I had signed up for Steamtown Marathon (Scranton) two years ago and it was canceled. We signed up again this year and it was canceled again. So we found Rehoboth and I did better than I thought.’’
She can say that again. Her age-graded number was in the high 70s and she cleared the Boston qualifying standard by more than 20 minutes.
Savastano started running back in seventh grade when her mother signed her up for cross country even though the thought of running distance didn’t sound all that appealing.
Yet she went on to continue in the sport through her years at Honesdale High School (near Lake Wallenpaupack). She chose not to run at Penn State Wilkes-Barre and parted ways with the sport until about age 30.
Then, after daughter Meadow arrived, Stephanie decided she needed to get back into shape and one way to do that was to push her child in a stroller. Soon the two were doing races together.
“I realized it was a way to meet new people,’’ she said. “Be healthy and spend time with her as well. Usually I do the same races over and over again. I pushed the stroller through a couple half-marathons.’’
Savastano said unlike high school, in which she admitted to giving “minimal effort,’’ she was now committed to running.
“As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized nutrition, easy-day/hard-day cycle, the right types of shoes – it all comes together as you get older,’’ she said. “In high school it was just an after-school activity.’’
The big challenge of a marathon seemed to come along at just the right time as the pandemic offered some more open time to pursue outdoor, health-based activity.
“I started right after the (Bucks) 5K Series ended and I had never run more than 14 miles,’’ she said. “I just started increasing my long runs and when Steamtown was canceled I just kept up with the longer runs, the longest being 21.’’
Training partner Melissa Palermo offered some welcome company on a few of these big Sunday training treks and that bond played a role in the success at Delaware.
Stephanie and her husband, Don Bradley, own the Manhattan Bagel stores in Chalfont and Lansdale.
Savastano is part of a growing, talented group of masters runners in Bucks County which includes Dave and Annabelle Broadbent, Bob Boland and Gert Freas.
“I look up to them so much,’’ Savastano said, “for being able to continue to run year after year. I hope I can do the same. They’re an inspiration.’’
In a sense, Savastano is turning back the clock with her performances. This past weekend she ran the Blaze of Glory 5K in 20:18 (second overall). This compared with a 22:30 back in 2016 when she was age 36.
“I just keep chipping away and I know eventually it’s going to stop,’’ she said. “It’s going to start to go backwards. I just keep working on it. I think I have the consistency and dedication to keep improving. I know there’s a limit but I’m happy where I am right now.’’
The Rehoboth Beach experience no doubt adds energy to her running program. She has more than a year to get ready for Boston but she wants to keep having fun along the way.
“(In Rehoboth) I was high-fiving my daughter,’’ she said. “I didn’t look at my watch. I started with the 3:25 group and when I passed the 3:15 pacer I thought he must be hurting. I think if I did it again, I would concentrate more on what my mile splits are and take it a little more seriously.’’
Any tips for masters runners?
“I put beet powder in my oatmeal,’’ she said with a chuckle. “I use magnesium, electrolytes. I try to get enough protein. I don’t eat red meat. I eat vegetables and fish and keep a balanced diet. As you get older, it’s harder to keep muscle on. I use weight training to make sure my core is strong.’’
With last year’s Bucks 5K Series co-champion Katie Kinkead having moved to Washington, D.C., Savastano looks like the favorite to win the title on her own this year.
With a sensational Rehoboth experience under her belt, that looks like a pretty good bet.
>BCRR Winter Series another success
Another Winter Series was put in the books last month and Series director John O’Brien said the Bucks County Roadrunners Club was pleased with the outcome.
“We learned from last year (2020-21) and kept several changes,’’ O’Brien said. “Chip timing is here to stay, thanks to Jimmy Balmer, Anthony Accardo and WHP Events. We brought back the racing/social event our runners are accustomed to: Campfire, hot chocolate, fresh coffee and oatmeal.’’
Special treats included pies, nachos, soup, chili and egg sandwiches.
O’Brien noted the race fields were back up in the 200s. Instead of a typical year-end awards dinner, the club will hold an outdoor event in May.
Top performers on the women’s side included Justyna Wilson, Bronwyn Bird and Courtney Woodfield. In men’s competition, Jamie Gray, Matt Brown and Logan Brady led the way.
The Series continues to find its way back to the way it was pre-pandemic.
“It’s great to be back,’’ O’Brien said.
Saturday, April 16
Rock the Nock Half-Marathon/10K/5K, 7:30 a.m., Quakertown. Contact www.runsignup.com