A Laramie Ultra-Marathoner Finds Peace In Running

Aug 14, 2015

Jennifer Bartel
Credit Bob Beck

Lots of people like to run and many have chosen to run marathons. But not that many have decided to run beyond that. One such person is gearing up for an upcoming 100 mile race that she’s running for the second time. There’s lots of ways Jennifer Bartel and her three kids and dog spend time together, but lately a lot of that family time has been spent running. Bartel runs a lot.

“I try to keep it right around 50 miles a week, mostly because when I boost it over that I start to feel really poor from my neck all the way down, so I stick right at 50 miles.  

These days she is training for the Leadville Trail 100 run. It’s a 100 mile trail run that has altitude swings from roughly 9-000 feet to 12,600 feet.

If you finish it in 25 hours or less you get a big belt buckle. But you must finish in 30 hours or you miss the cutoff. 

“I finished last time with 11 minutes to spare and I was a hurting unit, I had been puking, I had an upset stomach for 60 miles, so yeah I think it’s a healthy fear of a very long ways.”

This will be Bartel’s 5th Ultra marathon. She’s also run 9 official marathons and several other long distance races. Taking on a race like Leadville just happened.

“So I started running a marathon, then I ran another marathon the next month, then I asked one of my friends do you think I could run Leadville. She said if anybody could run Leadville you could.”

She’s 33, single, with 3 kids, and she’s employed as a nurse practitioner. In addition to her running, she does CrossFit five to six times a week. She laughs when you ask if she’s crazy. Although she was a high school athlete, the running part of her life started seven years ago during her difficult third pregnancy. Her health wasn’t good.

“My dad died of a heart attack when he was really young, he was 53, so I didn’t want that for myself, so I started walking and challenged myself with a 5K and challenged myself with the Bolder-Boulder and it just progressed from there.”

But the longer distances came about from dealing with some personal challenges that included a divorce.  For Bartel running is her therapy. 

“You know running has helped me fight anxiety, it’s helped my fight sadness, and you know with longer runs I think a lot about my family and my kids, and the stresses of raising them in a split home, and for whatever reason running fatigues me enough where I’m not overly anxious where I can deal with everything mentally.” 

As a nurse practitioner Bartel treats patients, prescribes medications, and urges people to try not to hurt themselves. She doesn’t often listen to her own advice.

“I’ve had arthritis in my feet from all of this, knee surgery, stress fractures.”

But the running is too important. 

“Some mornings I crawl out of bed and my knees are aching, or my hips are hurting, and I think is this really worth it?  But it is when I need to have my head straight.”

While she does do roadwork most of her non-winter running is spent in mountain trails near her home in Laramie. Of course running in nature does lead to some interesting encounters. One recent night run was a little too exciting. 

“I had an encounter with a very large male moose that I hid behind a tree for a little while before he decided to move along. And then about a half a mile up the road from that there were a very large cat, which I’ll call mountain lion eyes staring down from a tree, and that’s when I decided it was time to go home for the night and I was done.”

Running mega miles does take a serious toll on her body and Bartel often thinks about giving up the ultra-races for something a little more moderate.  

“Every race that I finish, every ultra, I think it’s time, and something will happen in my life and I’ll think eh.”

Remember it’s her therapy.  And for those of you who think running all those miles must be boring, she disagrees. 

“I mean you run 50 miles in the Big Horns and I’m out there next to the river and I’m seeing wildlife, it’s what God has made and I’m seeing beauty all day long.”

Bartel and other runners will line up to run the Leadville 100 mile race at four in the morning on August 22nd.