Men's Sports Sports

Springfield alum Jack Pinho breaks 4 minutes in the mile

Luke Whitehouse
@Lwhitehouse12

As the clock began to tick “3:57,”  “3:58,” and Jack Pinho realized the short time he had to cross the finish line before it hit the four minute mark, he made a choice. He reached his outstretched arms, launched his body in the direction of the white line that had been draped across the maroon track, and dove toward the finish line. 

Before Pinho had even looked up at the time, he knew he had given it all he had. 

“Just to have the opportunity to go for it was emotional,” Pinho said. “Whether you get it or not, you’re getting to the start line healthy.” 

But make no mistake about it, Pinho wanted to cross that finish line before the four minute mark. 

And as he lifted himself from the ground to peek at the scoreboard, he saw his last name and beside it, the time of 3:59.54. 

He had finally done it. 

With his coach, Anna Steinman in attendance, as well as former teammates and his longtime girlfriend Katie, Pinho was, for the first time in his life, appreciative of the moment. 

“For the first time in my running career I was content for the moment,” Pinho said. “I was so proud of myself and I admit that is crazy. It’s always been ‘what’s the next achievement?’”

From overcoming injuries, to running late at night because it was the only time he could, and on top of that working 40-50 hours a week, every obstacle that could have derailed him didn’t. 

“Once Jack sets his mind to something he’s going to do it,” Steinman said. “That’s just who he is.” 

Since graduating from Springfield in 2018, Pinho was no longer obligated to run. He had nothing to run for. After setting five school records as a collegiate athlete, Pinho’s career was cemented. 

Except it wasn’t.

He wanted to keep going, to reach new heights, to stomp on the stigma that he peaked in college. 

“Running post-collegiately is a challenge. You don’t have many resources, there are no athletic trainers, there’s no one at practice taking your splits, and you take it for granted sometimes,” Pinho said. “Nobody’s there so it’s just me running on my own. And so when I crossed that finish line, not only was I grateful, but I thought of everyone that thought I was crazy for going for this, asking why I put myself through all of this.” 

Pinho’s love for the sport of running and his sense of strong intrinsic motivation led him to continue his running career. 

“I don’t do it just to compete, you know, I do it because I genuinely love running,” Pinho said. “I genuinely love running. You know that’s kind of my escape, when things are getting tough, being able to go on a run clear your mind you know, kind of disengage for a little bit.”

The road to get to accomplishing this goal he set was a bumpy one, to say the least. 

After graduating, Pinho joined the Springfield College cross country team as a graduate assistant for two years. He continued training, and his former coach, and now colleague, Steinman continued to write his training. He entered mile races throughout those two years, reaching times as low as 4:04 twice and giving him the confidence he needed to set his goal. At the end of his first season as a GA he had battled injuries. And at the end of his second season, something unforeseen to all happened, the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I kind of backed off racing,” Pinho said. “I was just never able to put together a full season and get back on my feet.” 

Following graduate school, Pinho took a job in West Hartford, and began training again, this time with someone else writing his training– longtime professional running coach, Frank Gagliano. After a recommendation from Steinman, Pinho began this new cycle of training, in hopes of getting back to the level of fitness, and ultimately reach the heights he envisioned. 

Unfortunately, Pinho was never able to actually race under Gagliano. 

He got hurt during his training, and then Gagliano ultimately stepped away from coaching. 

And then Pinho reached out to a familiar face: Steinman. He started training again under her watch, setting personal records in the 5K, and felt the fittest he had in a while. 

Then, the injury bug struck again. 

“I was super excited for the indoor track season,” Pinho recalls. “Two weeks later, I suffered a foot injury, and although it wasn’t diagnosed, I’m pretty sure it was a stress fracture.”

This injury took Pinho off of his feet for four months. 

At the same time, he had left his coaching job at Rivier University in New Hampshire, and took a full-time job in the athletic department at Sacred Heart University. 

This put Pinho’s running journey in limbo. Even though he was still cross training, it began to be difficult as his body wasn’t recovering the way it had and on top of that the 40-50 hour weeks started to pile up at work. 

“Those were really hard days,” Pinho said. “You’re on the bike everyday and you’re hurt. And no one forced me to go on the bike, but would still spend hours upon hours on the bike each week.” 

Then in the spring of 2022, he began to run again. He competed in some races over the summer and then joined the prominent racing club Boston Athletic Association, which runs out of Boston and is sponsored by Adidas. 

This time, he was around some of the best runners in America, and planned to take full advantage. 

He started to ramp up his training, competing in San Francisco with his team, and setting a PR in the 3K as well. 

Finally he was ready to reach his goal.  

This wasn’t easy, though. 

His days consisted of work all day, and then late night training, going on runs as late as seven at night, and getting home late to eat dinner. His longtime girlfriend was there to see it all, and played a huge part in reaching his goal. 

“She put in so much sacrifice for me,” Pinho said. “She would have dinner ready for me every night when I’d get home and walk through the door around 8:30 after my run. She would drive on Saturdays and Sundays with me to places to make sure I could run. She would ride her bike alongside me as I ran to make sure I wasn’t alone.” 

On Jan. 27, Pinho entered a mile race and finished with a time of 4:02. 

“I kind of had a moment with my coach (Steinman),” Pinho said . “She was like ‘it’s gonna happen. You’re going to do it when we come back in two weeks.’” 

Confidence is something that fuels everyone in sports, and Pinho finally had his back. 

“I was locked in the next two weeks of training,” Pinho said. “I was crushing every workout, hitting all my splits.” 

Ten days out from the race where he ultimately broke four minutes, Pinho came up to Springfield for a training session.

“It was kind of the nail in the coffin,” Pinho said. “I executed the hard workout perfectly. I looked at Coach Steinman and said ‘I’m gonna do it.’”

On race day, Steinman knew Pinho was ready. 

“I knew on that day when the gun went off that it was going to happen, just by the look on his face,” Steinman said. 

In track, the indoor season is relatively short, and as the weather gets warmer, the outdoor track season comes calling. That sentiment stayed with Pinho. 

“I knew I had one, maybe two cracks at it left this winter,” Pinho said. “I think I would have had huge regret my entire life if I was stuck on 4:02, and did not take advantage of really going for it.” 

The day didn’t start as planned. 

Pinho’s girlfriend Katie, who is his biggest supporter, had come down with a stomach bug the night before. The beginning of race day was spent tending to her, and making sure she felt okay, which in hindsight, helped in keeping his mind off the race. 

Before Pinho had left to warm up, Katie looked at Pinho and said, “we’re here and we’re doing it.”

“It was almost like for a moment she believed in me without saying it,” Pinho said. “She basically told me you’re gonna do it and I’m gonna be here to watch. It got me so fired up.” 

Pinho’s preparation had met his confidence, setting him up for the success that followed. 

The stars were aligning. This was his time. 

As Pinho took off in the packed indoor track on the campus of Boston University, there was no doubt he was going to reach his goal. 

After crossing the finish line, all Pinho was trying to do was catch his breath. He had just run faster than he ever had before, leaving everything out on the track. After realizing that he had finally done it, and adrenaline began to infuse his body, he rushed to find one person: Katie. 

“The only person I truly was looking for was Katie,” Pinho said. “After the race I just grabbed her and was hugging her and she kept yelling at me saying ‘you did it’, ‘you did it.’ But then I had this moment, and I looked at her and said ‘no, we did it.’”

Photo: Springfield College Athletics

 

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