Life + Arts Profile

Indomitable: UH student barrels through injury, adversity in inspiring half-marathon

Jesus Salinas holds up his medals in front of a Shasta statue and the TDECU Stadium.

Salinas hopes his journey will inspire others to achieve their dreams. | Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

A short-circuit fire in his home left 6-month-old Jesus Salinas in and out of treatments and surgeries, with doctors thinking walking was out of the equation for him.

Now a business sophomore, Salinas has gained the attention of the University and its community through his running videos on Instagram, one of which has over 600,000 views and counting.

“Anybody can go out and run if they wanted to but no one’s doing it, that’s the thing,” Salinas said. “You’ve got to take action. If you’re scared to do it, start right now.”

Despite initial hesitation to post himself and his runs, Salinas was convinced by a friend and realized that it’s not about him, but about what it represents.

“People are watching it, and it’s inspiring other people to chase whatever they desire and hopefully it impacts somebody in a positive way,” Salinas said.

Salinas’ most popular video called out to the University, promising he would run a half marathon around campus if the post received a comment from UH’s official Instagram account, which shortly followed. 

With the University and hundreds of thousands of viewers behind him, Salinas donned his UH red and knocked out the half marathon.

This, however, was just a step toward running a full marathon, which Salinas completed only one week later after five weeks of preparation.

“That took a toll on my body after but seeing a dream that you think is impossible and then actually doing it, there’s no better feeling than that,” Salinas said.

Before the big race, Salinas ran 169 miles in 31 days, averaging 28 miles a week.

Finishing a marathon was Salinas’ goal before turning 20, but he’s not stopping anytime soon with an upcoming 5k and plans to run next year’s Houston marathon.

“Who knows what I’m gonna do for 20,” Salinas said. “20 can be something different, but just having something once a year that kind of scared you but you accomplished it anyway, that’s just amazing.”

Salinas ran nearly 200 miles in preparation for his marathon. | Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

As part of his journey to the finish line, Salinas found support through Team Catapult, an organization “that aims to catapult physically challenged individuals” in different sports, and Freaks Run Club.

Both organizations align with Salinas’ goals and values, and he’s worked to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with them, as they get support from each other.

Salinas started running at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and since then, has found ways to adapt to challenges thrown at him. Unable to hold a water bottle while running, Salinas found a vest that holds a compressible water bottle and his phone.

“For running specifically, I think the hardest thing for me was just being consistent and figuring out what I have to do to get to the end goal,” Salinas said.

On top of running, Salinas is making the most out of his university experience and is working toward joining the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, and is currently part of Spirit of Houston, Undergraduate Real Estate Scholars, Bauer Honors and volunteers for New ELMNT, who recently held Taste of Texas.

In order to balance his classes, organizations and running schedule, Salinas woke up early and slept late and while it wasn’t always the easiest, he knew the only way to achieve his goal was to work for it. 

“It was really hard getting up really early,” Salinas said. “You’re the only one out there, there’s nobody out there cheering you on.”

While Salinas says most people in his position might have self pity for themselves, his relationship with God, living each day like it’s his last and doing what scares him has kept pushing him forward.

“There’s only so much I can do but God gives me the strength to do all this other stuff,” Salinas said. “And without him I really wouldn’t be here, so every day is just a blessing.”

Salinas’ close friends and family, namely his mom, have been his biggest supporters.

“She’s taught me everything I need to know and she always pushed me to be independent,” Salinas said. 

After spending his younger years in and out of Shriners Hospital for Children, Salinas praises his nurses and doctors for teaching him his values.

“I grew up with nurses instead of classmates,” Salinas said. “They were the ones that pushed me to be independent and to think for myself and just adapt in different ways.”

As Salinas ventures deeper into the entrepreneurship world, he hopes to someday be the one providing support for the hospital.

“My ultimate goal with business is to create something or take over a business, but be able to give back to community. Give back to Shriners, that’s my ultimate goal is just to give back to them the way they gave back to me,” he said.

For people struggling with motivation, Salinas said to simply ask yourself how badly you want it.

“If you’re not acting on your goals and desires, then they’re just dreams,” Salinas said. “You really don’t want to live life with regrets, live life to the fullest.”

At a campus with over 40,000 students, Salinas hopes to reach at least one person and show “what it means to be a Cougar.”

“Maybe you can’t reach everybody, but you could reach that one person that really needs it and impact their life,” Salinas said. “Everything I’ve been doing is just to prove to myself that there’s another barrier that you could break and there’s something else after that.”

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