Michael Mariano Sabino, once one of Baltimore's premiere distance runners and a former physical education teacher, died Friday of natural causes while recovering from pneumonia at Gilchrist Hospice Care. He was 69 and lived in Cockeysville.
Mr. Sabino was born in Scotch Plains, N.J., and began competitive distance running while attending Plainfield High School in Plainfield, N.J. He told The Evening Sun in a 1973 article that at 5 feet 4 inches and 115 pounds, he was too small to play football or basketball.
"A coach in high school really took him under his wing and really nurtured his interest in running," said Mr. Sabino's son Michael "Chris" Sabino of Cockeysville. "He took to it quickly."
Mr. Sabino went on to attend Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia for one year, where he continued running cross country and track and field. He then transferred to High Point College in North Carolina, where he represented the school at two national AAU cross country meets, a competition of the best college runners in the nation.
After graduating with a physical education degree, Mr. Sabino was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War. A recipient of a Purple Heart, he served two years before receiving honorable discharge in 1967.
A college friend and cross-country teammate, Jack Wagner of Fallston, persuaded Mr. Sabino to move to Howard County to teach in 1967. He taught physical education at St. John's Lane Elementary School in Ellicott City and coached cross country at Mount Hebron High School. Under his leadership, the team won the state championship in 1969.
He taught at St. John's Lane for about 15 years until retiring because of health problems, his family said.
Mr. Sabino resumed competitive running after moving to Maryland. The Evening Sun often described him as the "premiere distance runner of the area."
As a member of the Baltimore Olympic Club and other running groups, Mr. Sabino won dozens of medals and awards. He ran more than a half-dozen Boston Marathons, where he sometimes placed in the top 50, and came in fourth in the inaugural Maryland Marathon in 1973. Mr. Sabino was inducted into the Baltimore Road Runners Club Hall of Fame in 2004, his son said.
"In the Baltimore area, he certainly ranks up there with some of the very best there have been," Mr. Wagner said. "Mike was probably one of the most consistent and high-performer runners that I can recall in probably 30 or 40 years in the Baltimore area."
Mr. Sabino trained every day, running as much as 80 miles in a week. Mr. Wagner said Mr. Sabino was a regimented, solitary runner who could run miles by himself. He liked the competitiveness of running, and the longer the run, the better he did, Mr. Wagner said.
"He would run in snow. He would run in rain," his son said. "Sometimes people would think he was crazy running in all kinds of weather."
"Running? It's just something I believe in," Mr. Sabino told The Evening Sun. "It's a conscious thing I have to do."
He was such a fixture in local races that one race organizer once said, "The fact is if Mike didn't show up at the starting line, we'd know we had messed up somehow and it wasn't time to run the race."
He stopped running competitively in the early 1980s, his family said.
An interment service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville. A memorial service will follow at 2:30 p.m. at Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter, 130 W. Seminary Ave, Lutherville.
In addition to his son, survivors include a daughter, Cheryl E. Sabino of Cockeysville; a sister, Carol Crook of Southern Pines, N.C.; and one granddaughter. His marriage to Brenda S. Sabino of Catonsville ended in divorce.