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Oak Park marathoner propelled by timing of River Forest murder

Esmail Bonakdarian, Andres Gonzalez, Charlie Stoops and John Jenks ran the Chicago Marathon this weekend to raise money for the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network.  |  Photo courtesy of Dominican University

Esmail Bonakdarian, Andres Gonzalez, Charlie Stoops and John Jenks ran the Chicago Marathon this weekend to raise money for the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network. | Photo courtesy of Dominican University

As if running 26.2 miles to help end domestic violence was not enough, John Jenks’ first Chicago Marathon took on a deeper meaning with the news of a woman allegedly stabbed to death by her boyfriend and dumped in Thatcher Woods.

“I was inspired because you’re running for a cause, not just a time,” said Jenks, 52, of Oak Park, a journalism professor at Dominican University in River Forest. “I thought about the woman murdered and dumped in the forest preserve, and I thought, ‘What I’m doing is really important.’”

In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness month, Jenks and three Dominican coworkers raised more than $6,000 for Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network by running the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13.

The timing of the murder of Jasmin Salas, 20, of Chicago, who had an argument with her boyfriend that allegedly turned violent, was not lost on Jenks, who teaches news writing and reporting classes, media history and media law at Dominican.

“I hate it when things like that happen, but it made what I was running for so much more important,” he said.

Jenks was joined by his wife, Jennifer, a social worker for Metropolitan Family Services, an organization that benefited from her husband’s fundraising. She was also running her first marathon.

John Jenks, a casual runner who had not run more than a 10K race before the marathon, finished in 3 hours, 53 minutes and 4 seconds.

“For my first marathon, I’m pretty happy with that time,” he said at about lunchtime the following day. “I’m feeling good, but my legs are moving slowly. It was sunny, but cool in the morning. It was perfect running weather.”

Like many first-time marathoners, Jenks ran the first 20 miles with “pretty smooth sailing” and then started to slow. Fortunately, he had family cheering him at the 23-mile mark.

“I did manage to pick it up and bring it in at a fairly decent time,” Jenks said. “I’m happy about that and that money was raised for a good cause. Overall, it was a great day. I rewarded myself with a bunch of Mexican beef and a couple of cold beers.”

More than 50 faculty and staff members at Dominican contributed to the fund-raising, according to Jessica Mackinnon, spokeswoman for Dominican.

Knowing the money was already collected gave Jenks additional incentive to finish, he said.

“It was really inspirational to have the support of my colleagues, friends and coworkers,” he said. “Having their support made it something that I had to do.”

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