When Janine Jacinto started a running club at Heritage Elementary School, it was just a way to share her passion for running with her students, who might not have the opportunity to participate in more expensive team sports.
Now more than 100 students, from kindergarten to middle school, meet every Tuesday to run laps, learn proper form and bond over a shared love of running. She calls it the Lodi Youth Running Club, and Runner’s World magazine finds her story inspirational.
“I expected a thumbnail picture and a little blurb,” said Jacinto, a sixth-grade teacher. Instead, she and some of her runners were featured in a full page photo in the recently released December issue. The magazine asked readers to send in stories of runners who inspire them, and Jacinto’s story was among them.
The response has been positive. Local runners jammed Jacinto’s cellphone with texts, and friends at the gym stop her to chat about the article.
“It’s been fun,” she said while punching student’s cards as they ran laps after school on Tuesday.
Her nomination came from Layla Bohm, a former News-Sentinel reporter and an avid runner who also wrote the accompanying article.
“I nominated Janine because she started a running club for the kids who most need positive things in their lives. Eleven years later, it has 125 members,” said Bohm.
Jacinto, who also runs training groups for adults, helped Bohm through her first half-marathon and was waiting at the finish line of her first full marathon with a hug.
“She runs countless marathons and ultra-marathons, sometimes against extreme challenges, and that’s pretty inspiring,” Bohm added.
Jacinto found out about the feature in a bizarre way. She was heading home from graduate classes at the University of the Pacific in Stockton when she checked her cellphone for messages. One was from Bohm, who asked Jacinto to call her back punctuated by excited giggles. Later that night, Bohm gave her the news: She and the Lodi Youth Running Club would be featured in the December issue of Runner’s World.
“I woke up the next day thinking that was a really weird dream,” she said. Then she saw that message from Bohm and it all came flooding back.
Arranging the photo shoot was hectic. Jacinto got a last-minute call from a photographer based in San Francisco the night before she left to compete in a triathlon. Three days later, a portable photo studio was set up in her classroom.
Sixth-grader Jose Sanchez, who has been running for about a year and a half, said taking the photos was a big production.
“It was long, I was tired. The photographer kept trying to catch us off guard, trying to make us laugh,” he said.
Fellow sixth-grader Michelle Meza started running with the club in kindergarten.
“It makes you healthy,” she said. She also said she likes to go to the local runs Jacinto signs them up for, including the recent Pump It Up Run at Lodi Lake.
Jacinto said the kids were excited, but didn’t really understand the scale of a national magazine. What they do understand is how running makes them feel.
“The kids beg to run more. The goal is to get them focused on a healthy lifestyle,” said Jacinto. “They can take this with them wherever they go, along with the sense of belonging to a group they are proud of.”
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.