Newark team heads to Boston
Sinko to push teen in marathon
Steve Sinko will be among the expected 30,000 competitors running in the Boston Marathon on Monday – something he already has done five other times.
“There’s no reason for me to go back,” said Sinko, who works as a personal trainer at Fusion Fitness, a gym on Main Street in Newark, and also coaches the cross-country and track teams at Newark Charter School.
Sinko, 41, quickly qualified, however, that he ran those previous five Boston Marathons solo.
This time, Sinko will be pushing Preston Buenaga, a 19-year-old Wilmington resident, along that famous 26.2-mile route while the teen sits in a special racing chair on three wheels. Preston has mitochondrial disease and is unable to walk on his own.
It will be Preston’s first Boston Marathon, and his presence in that racing chair on Monday will put the event into a new, exciting light for Sinko.
“As far as spectacular goes, there’s nothing like the Boston Marathon. There are 30,000 runners. There’s one million people spectating. Spectators are along the route, from start to finish. There are no gaps,” Sinko said, adding, “So this will be a new experience for Preston, and I’m excited about that.”
Offering new experiences to people like Preston is, after all, why the Fusion Inclusion organization, an offshoot of Fusion Fitness, was established about four years ago.
Sinko is president of Fusion Inclusion, which works to promote making exercise and athletics accessible to all. Through fundraisers and donations, the organization has purchased seven racing chairs, with each costing about $4,600.
Preston, at this point, is quite familiar with occupying the racing chair during training runs and competitive races.
Sinko, for example, pushed Preston in a 5K race in Newark in July 2015, before building up to the Philadelphia Marathon in November 2016, finishing it in slightly less than three hours.
Preston’s mother, Deb Buenaga, an avid runner, too, has been pushing her son during practice sessions and in numerous races in several states. She has been a runner for about six years.
Deb, who started running because she sought an activity that she could share with Preston, has been championing inclusion since 2012. Friends and family helped her purchase the racing chair that she uses to push Preston.
Deb, 52, weighs 138 pounds. With Preston weighing about 145 pounds and the chair tipping the scale at 44 pounds, Deb pushes 189 pounds every time she runs while Preston accompanies her.
Despite having to push some 50 pounds more than her own weight, Deb has completed three marathons while pushing Preston, including one in Virginia Beach, Va., amid a nor’easter in just under five hours and the Marine Corp. Marathon in Washington, D.C., in October in slightly more than five hours.
Preston is a source of motivation.
“We were at about 24 miles [in the Marine Corp. Marathon], when I felt like I couldn’t continue. I told Preston that I didn’t think I could finish and he said, ‘Come on mom, you can do it’,” Deb said, noting that it inspired her to complete the race.
Being in that racing chair puts Preston in his element, according to Deb.
“Preston likes to be around people and he thrives best when that’s the case. This gives him an opportunity to socialize. He talks to me or Steve while we’re running. He also talks to people at the races and jokes with them,” Deb said, adding with a chuckle, “And when there are pretty girls around, that makes it even better.”
Relating to Preston’s love of social situations, Preston and Steve were guests last week on Philadelphiabased WMMR radio’s The Preston & Steve Show.
“The theme was Preston and Steve meet Preston and Steve,” Deb said, noting that the interviewers touched on the upcoming Boston Marathon.
Sinko cited similar benefits, all in line with Fusion Fitness objectives.
“The goal is to give people an opportunity to be out and to experience new things. I want them to experience what I’m experiencing,” Sinko summarized.
As for pushing Preston while Sinko runs to train or compete, the experience now hinges on the interaction between the two of them.
“At this point, being in that chair isn’t new to Preston. The novelty has worn off a bit,” Sinko said. “But what is new is our interaction and the places we go together. What’s new are the songs we sing together, the things we talk about and the things we see. I believe he really appreciates all that.”
That’s why this Boston Marathon is so exciting for Sinko, even though he’s run it five other times.
“Like I said, he gets to experience what I’m experiencing – but I also get to experience what he’s experiencing. This is his first time there, and the Boston Marathon is a big deal,” Sinko said.
In preparation, Sinko has been running several miles a day, sometimes pushing Preston, sometimes simulating his presence in that racing chair.
“I put dumbbells in there when he isn’t with me, so there is some weight. I run about 70 miles a week. I do 16 to 21 miles once a week, on a weekend day,” Sinko said. “I train harder when I know that I’m going out there with Preston. I want it to be a good experience for him.”
Sinko first met Preston and his mom a few years ago at a Fusion Fitness fundraiser for Preston’s Playground, a handicappedaccessible playground planned for the base of the Newark Reservoir. The playground will allow all children – regardless of disabilities – to play together in a safe, accessible space.
Sinko started training Deb so she could run races while pushing Preston in the adaptive chair.
Around that time, Sinko hadn’t run a marathon in quite a while because of a foot injury. He lacked the motivation to train – until he saw Deb’s motivation and the joy of crossing the finish line on Preston’s face, he explained.
Steve Sinko will push Preston Buenaga, 19, in the Boston Marathon on Monday.