He doesn’t run because he’s being chased. He doesn’t run because he’s late. He runs because he can.
Dave Jiunta is closing in on 50 years of running in the Wyoming Valley. The Pittston native has been competing competitively for the past 30 years and hasn’t slowed down much.
Jiunta was featured in the 2005 edition of the Sunday Dispatch’s “Spotlight” feature with the headline “See Dave run… and run and run and run.” That headline fits, Dave said. And now his running has led to bigger things in the sport.
“I’m still running competitively when I can,” he said. “I had an injury earlier and I’m getting my mileage back up. The distance is there, but I’m trying to get my speed back.”
Currently the Pittston Area boys cross country coach, a position he’s held for 15 years, Jiunta spent years substituting at local schools. Currently, however, he teaches world cultures and advanced social studies at Pittston Area.
After a short hiatus from coaching the sport, Jiunta decided in 2000 to return to the sidelines and help prospective runners.
In the 2005 article, Jiunta said he loves coaching because, “I love to see the indirect effect and the good influences.” His mindset hasn’t changed much.
“I just missed teaching kids how to run and training kids to watch the end results when they race, too,” he said. “I don’t regret it one bit.”
The first Tomato Festival run was held in 1982, and Jiunta won it. Back then, the race was just two miles. Fast forward to 2015 and Jiunta participated in this year’s Miles for Michael Tomato Festival 5K where he finished second in his age bracket.
Jiunta didn’t start running by necessity. When he was in ninth grade, he was too small to play on the football team.
“It didn’t work out very well,” he said of his short-lived football career.
He then tried out for cross country and has been running ever since. In high school at Meyers, Jiunta’s fastest mile was 4:28. He said he hasn’t gone that low since.
Jiunta has competed in nine marathons, including Boston, New York and Philadelphia. He keeps a log of every competitive race he’s run. According to Jiunta, he’s run more than 600 races in his time.
Jiunta doesn’t believe he can train for a prestigious race again. He does, however, have that memory of competing. He said Boston is more of a history lesson while running through the old towns.
“It’s the oldest, most established marathon,” he said. “It was a privilege to run it.”
King of the road
You can see Jiunta running through town once in a while. He likes to stick to the road, he said.
Jiunta dealt with an injury that sidelined him last running season. This year, however, he was able to participate in three races held in Wyoming Valley.
In the Jewish Community Center of Wyoming Valley’s 2015 River Street 3-mile run in the spring, Junta turned in a time of 22:06, good enough for an eighth-place finish. He was the oldest finisher in the top 10 by six years.
On July 4, at the Wilkes-Barre YMCA’s 32nd annual Bernie’s Memorial 3-mile run, Jiunta finished first in the 61-65 division with a time of 21:48.
Through the fall months, Jiunta’s concentration is spent on his cross country team, which started its season earlier this month. There are two races, however, he has his sights set on. The Jewish Community Center Fall Run, as well as the Run for the Diamonds are both a possibility.
Jiunta was born in Wilkes-Barre and attended Meyers High School. He later graduated from King’s College. For most of his life, he’s been a resident of Pittston. He is single and has five sisters.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick