Saklar Says Running Keeps Her Connected

To her teammates, Jenny Saklar is known as “mama amazing.” In part, Saklar has earned her nickname because she is a fierce 31-year-old runner keeping pace with 20-year-olds. But Saklar is also much more than a runner. When she is not running, Saklar can be found playing her favorite sport, Ultimate Frisbee. And when she is doing neither, Saklar plays the role of social justice advocate, clean air advocate, and environmental health advocate.
As a child growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, Saklar played many sports. Though running was not one of her favorites, she joined her high school cross country team, hoping to at least stay in shape.
“I was terrible,” says Saklar. ”I was one of the worst on the team, but I stuck it out.”
After high school, Saklar attended Truman University in Missouri. At Truman, Saklar would put away her running efforts. She would only watch as her best friend made the nationals in the steeple chase. It wasn’t until her senior year that Saklar would find her own passion in a simple game of Frisbee.
With an undergraduate degree in Biology, Saklar continued her education at Humboldt State University, where she was once again a serious Ultimate Frisbee competitor. Her running aspirations still seemed bleak, but in the classroom, Saklar was a force to be reckoned with. She completed her education with a master in Environment and Community.
Saklar soon found herself in Fresno, Ca, where she finally found a reason to run. “I noticed there is a big running community here,” said Saklar, who joined Team in Training, a nonprofit organization to help the Leukemia and Lymphomia Society. “I decided on a whim that I would join Team in Training and run the San Diego marathon,” said Saklar, who had previously never ran more than four miles.
“It was really really hard,” said Saklar. But she completed the race and raised more than $2000 for Leukemia and Lymphomia.
With her degrees already in her hands, Saklar wasn’t in need of schooling, but she attended Fresno City College hoping to find interesting courses and wanting to join the cross country team.
“Coming here and taking classes and participating in athletics is all part of self growth. I have been blessed with the courses I have been able to get in to,” said Saklar. “I really enjoy Fresno City. Most of my professors have a PhD and my track coach is a former Olympian. There are a lot of resources here that many people don’t know about. I’m taking advantage of that opportunity.”
Though her teammates occasionally tease her about her age, Saklar is always willing to share her wisdom.
“I feel that I can bring my knowledge to the team because I have been in athletics almost all of my life. I have studied sports and nutrition. I know a lot of yoga, so people are always asking me how to stretch,” said Saklar.
For Saklar, the sport which was once unbearable has now become a form of meditation. As she runs, she finds her mind clearing.
“Running is a clearing and a chance to tune in to myself, to feel what’s going on in my body, to feel whatever emotions come up. It’s a chance to tune in to the environment. One day we might be running through some redwood trees. Another day, we might be running on the beach,” said Saklar. “It’s a good chance to get a bird’s eye view and see more than you would in a car or even a bicycle.”
Saklar says although running takes a lot of energy, it gives her a lot of energy. “Running is the best way to keep up your strength and your cardiovascular health,” says Saklar.
The Omaha native now begins her day with a 7 a.m. run at Woodward Park. After about two hours of running, Saklar heads back home for a quick breakfast and shower. The rest of her day consists of classes and her work with the Children’s Air Pollution Study, which she has been doing for the last seven years.
“I have cared about the environment almost all my life, but especially since moving to California. The air here is the unhealthiest in the country. That’s really dear to me because I know a lot of people with asthma. Many people die prematurely because of heart attacks.” said Saklar. “It also impacts my daily life. I keep up to date with when our pollution is the worst whether it’s by season or even by day. I avoid running in those conditions like it’s the plague.”
Saklar has run three marathons. But one marathon in San Diego stands out more than the rest.
“My boyfriend broke his wrist three days before the race, but he had already registered and we had already planned my birthday weekend in San Diego. We decided to go anyway and he held off his surgery,” said Saklar, who took her boyfriend’s place in the marathon though she had not previously planned on running.
“I started as slow as I can and I just kept running. It felt like a great accomplishment not being afraid to do something like that. I was just taking in as much of the environment as possible to keep me distracted and happy,” said Saklar.
Though Saklar is not sure exactly how far she will go with running, she hopes to somehow stay involved for as long as possible. At the same time, she is always looking to take her passion for Ultimate Frisbee to the next level.
As for her work with the environment, Saklar plans on pushing for sustainable agriculture. She said, “It’s all about linking healthy food, healthy environment, and healthy people.”