When Stephanie Savastano was reading through her running literature, she must have missed the part that says you’re supposed to slow down as you age.
How else to explain her personal record performance in the recent Boston Marathon?
Looking back, Savastano ran her first marathon in December, 2021, and completed the 26.2-mile test at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware in 3:14 at age 42.
She competed at Rehoboth again this past December and won the whole darn female competition in 3:12.
Then, on April 17, she surprised herself by completing the challenging Boston layout in 3:09.
Out of 11,405 female runners, she finished 693rd or roughly in the top six percent of the field.
That’s 26 miles and change at 7:14 per mile pace, which is rather eye-opening for any age group, let alone 43.
No doubt the 2022 Rehoboth triumph in this training cycle played a role in boosting her confidence for a very special trip at Boston.
Toss in the fact it was a rainy, somewhat windy day in Massachusetts and the outcome seems even more impressive.
“I don’t mind the rain,” the Perkasie resident said in a phone conversation. “I do not like the colder wind. The rain was intermittent. It would downpour for a couple minutes, it wasn’t that bad.
“I had never run Boston so I didn’t go in with any expectations because I had heard people talking about the hills. So I just went in to enjoy the experience. I honestly didn’t think it was as hard as it was made out to be. I really enjoyed the experience.”
Back in Bucks County, Savastano is a two-time defending masters champion in the Bucks 5K Series. At Sunday’s YMCA Bucks County Strong 5K in Doylestown, Savastano was first female masters finisher (fourth overall) in a blazing 19:42.
That’s a 6:20 per mile clip good for an age-percentage rating of 78.3.
After the Bucks 5K Series is completed, she might run a half-marathon and then return to Rehoboth for a third straight year. In 2024, she’s planning to do the old Boston/Broad Street double and will have training partner and good friend Melissa Palermo by her side.
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.
As we wrote in a column last year, it was around this time that daughter Meadow arrived and Stephanie decided she needed to get back into shape. 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,” Stephanie told us in March, 2022. “Be healthy and spend time with her as well. Usually I do the same races over and over again. I even pushed the stroller through a couple half-marathons.”
One of the contributing factors to her faster times in the marathon is a conscious effort to improve her diet.
She’s added a little beet powder to increase her endurance and made some other changes.
“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.
“I definitely carb-loaded heavier before Boston than ever before. I took more (energy) gels than usual. That probably helped. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized nutrition, easy-day/hard-day cycle, the right type of shoes – it all comes together as you get older. In high school running was just an after-school activity.”
Getting a lot of support from her husband, Don Bradley, has played a part in her success as well. The two own Manhattan Bagel stores in Chalfont and Lansdale.
At the recent marathon, Savastano turned onto Boylston Street in Boston for the final half-mile and the whole scene became a blur. She could see the finish line clock and it still had a “3:0” on the first two numbers, so she knew it was going to be a PR.
“I saw the numbers and that probably got me running faster than I would have,” she said. “I was doing better than expected so I thought I might as well go as hard as I can.”
At this rate, slowing down doesn’t appear to be an option for Savastano. Age, in this particular case, is just a fast number.
SJR 5K, 6 p.m., Warrington. Contact www.runsignup.com
Sunset Challenge 5K, 7 p.m., Langhorne. Contact www.runsignup.com
Great Peace Valley 5-Mile/5K, 7:30 a.m. Contact www.runningintheusa.com
Cousins for Carol 5K, 9 a.m., Southampton. Contact www.runsignup.com