BY KYLE BRENNAN
Almost 70 years ago, Roger Bannister ran the world’s first sub-four-minute mile, an athletic breakthrough celebrated throughout the rest of the 20th century.
Although that milestone has been surpassed thousands of times since by perhaps as many as 2,000 runners, there is still something remarkable and emotional about the first time an athlete finishes his mile run in a time that starts with a three.
Those emotions weren’t lost on Jack Pinho, the Prospect native and former Woodland High standout who broke the four-minute barrier for the first time on Feb. 11 at the Boston University David Hemery Valentine Invitational.
Pinho clocked a time of 3 minutes, 59.54 seconds, becoming the 711th American to run 5,280 feet in fewer than 240 seconds, according to Track & Field News.
“To run a 3:59 mile has been a dream of mine since running at Springfield College,” said Pinho, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Springfield in 2018 and 2020, respectively. “I remember graduating and telling myself that I wasn’t done with running yet. I was still hungry and not satisfied. From 2018 until now, I was on that journey to be able to call myself a sub-four-minute miler.”
The last few years have been filled with ups and downs in his running career, Pinho said. The pandemic set back his progress in the spring of 2020, and he battled a series of injuries in 2021. He also transitioned into a new career as the student-athlete support services coordinator at Sacred Heart University, where he started in January 2022.
“It was simply not easy at all,” said Pinho, who runs for the Boston Athletic Association, the same group that hosts the Boston Marathon. “I would spend months at a time battling injuries, sacrificing early mornings, nights, weekends, to train, run, lift, and live this distance runner lifestyle, but with less resources than what I had in college. The craziest thing was, no one was there forcing me to do this. I was just simply hungry to see how far my body could be pushed.”
After training intensively since last summer, he said he felt good enough at the start of this year to shoot for the milestone. In a race on Jan. 27 at Boston University, he clocked a 4:02 mile. With that time in mind, he targeted the Feb. 11 race as his best opportunity.
“I took the race out fast and that was my motive from strategizing before the race,” Pinho said. “My coach and I agreed that if I [ran] the first 800 meters under 1:59, then I would have a shot. I got right on the rabbit pacer after the first lap and stuck to his hip until he pulled off the track at the half-mile mark. I went through in 1:58 and then the race had really begun. I really had to work on the back half of the race to prove to myself that I was willing to empty the bucket.”
Midway through the last lap, Pinho said he thought to himself, “Why not you, Jack?” That set up his home stretch.
“I came down the final stretch and just the clock staring me in the face — 3:55, tick, 3:56, tick, 3:57, tick, 3:58, tick — I had a split-second thought [to] dive, and I threw my body across the line and waited for the scoreboard to read my name and time. And it read ‘Pinho, 3:59.54.’”
In that moment, Pinho’s finish in the race — he was fourth in his heat and 48th overall, with the winning time being 3:50.45 — didn’t matter.
“There [were] so many sacrifices that were made for that moment, not just by me but by the ones I have been surrounded by,” Pinho said. “The moment I had with my girlfriend, Katie, just overwhelmed me after I crossed the line. She kept yelling, ‘You did it, Jack! You did it!’ and I just stopped her and rested my forehead on hers and said, ‘We did it, Katie.’ It really does take a village [with] the amount of sacrifices the close ones around me made, my mother and brother still coming to my races.”
For Pinho, 26, the sub-four-minute mile wasn’t the finish line for his running career.
“I don’t know anything else. Of course we keep going,” Pinho said. “Qualifying for a USA championship and the Olympic trials is the next goal.”
BY KYLE BRENNAN