Greybull woman tackles Bighorn Trail Run

Shayne Mazur

A Greybull woman was one of 202 runners who participated in the annual Bighorn Trail Run June 18 in the Bighorn Mountains.

The trail run has been cancelled the last few years due to the pandemic, but it was back this year and Jenna Schultz made sure to reserve her place. 

Schultz is no stranger to competitive running. She picked it up when she began teaching in La Valle, Wis. in 2009, starting with 5K races. 

“It was a way to be healthy and get out there. I’ve always coached track too. It was just a good way to have fun with the kids too, and getting my runs done with them,” she said.

Schultz is also no stranger to the Bighorn Trail Run. When she moved to Greybull four years ago, she competed in the 18-mile distance of the trail run. Though she’s run several other races in the area, including the Buffalo Bill Cody Half Marathon and a Ragnar Relay in Colorado, Schultz stated, “The Bighorn is my favorite.”

“I’ve always ran marathons, but when I first moved to Wyoming, there’s a lot of fun trail runs, and the Bighorns are right there. After that (first race), I kind of got hooked on trail running just because you’re up in the mountains. It’s beautiful.”

According to its website, The Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run is an ultra-running event created “to increase public awareness of the natural beauty, rugged terrain, and unique geology of the Bighorn Mountains and the Dry Fork and Little Bighorn River drainages.” It offers four distances for racers to compete in: 18, 32, 52 and 100 miles. 

Each trail cuts in and out of backcountry; the longer distances cross through Little Bighorn and Tongue River areas of Bighorn National Forest. All races finish in Dayton at the base of the mountain.

Most of the competitors who tackle the Bighorn Trail Run are ultra runners, like Schultz. An ultramarathon or “ultra” is any race longer than a marathon (26.2 miles). 

After tackling the 18-miler, Schultz set her sights on the 32-miler. The pandemic put her plans and the trail run on hold, but she continued interval and hill training, running up to 20 miles at a time. She trained in the mountains some too, but “a June race is hard to train for if there’s still snow up on the mountain in May.”

Due to its elevation, altitude and mixed terrain of cattle trails and steep inclines and declines, the Bighorn Trail Run boasts a place amongst the top 10 most difficult ultras in the nation. For a lot of trail runners, the race is a bucket list run. Registration sells out within minutes.

“People from all over the United States go to that run,” Schultz said, though she noted that a lot of talented runners from Burlington, Powell, Lovell and Sheridan compete as well.

Schultz began her 32-mile trail run at Dry Fork. The race was especially brutal this year due to heat. Racers contended with temperatures as high as 98 degrees.

Schultz finished in the middle of the pack across the board, crossing the finish line 23rd out of 48 in her age group (30-39), 54th of 116 in her gender group and 105th of 202 overall.

“I always look at the results to see where I was within my age group,” Schultz said. “I want to improve on that and do better. I need to realize what my limitations are too.

“It wasn’t by any means a fast run; it was more of a completion run. Like, ‘I did it’ type of a thing. And then from there, now that I know what I need to change—I’ll learn from those things and get better.”

Thirty-two miles marks the longest distance Schultz has raced so far. She has no plans to slow down, already aiming for the 52-miler next year.

But for now, she’s taking a break to recuperate.

“I was going to do a race the end of this month, but it was too soon. I need to recoup a little bit more from the trail run in the Bighorns. I didn’t expect to be beat up as much as I was. I’ll probably start running again towards the end of the month,” she said.

Schultz, who participates in a couple races each year, plans to compete again in Colorado in November.

When asked why she continues to run, Schultz said, “It made me realize that I can do hard things. That if I put my mind to something, I can do it. I just really enjoy it, and I want to see how much further I can keep running. It’s just kind of a thing to not only prove myself wrong, but to prove that anyone can do it.

“Ultra-running and trail running isn’t as high stakes as road or track running. You get out there and enjoy the peace and quiet and what God’s made up on the mountain. You run your own race. It doesn’t matter how fast or how slow you go. And I’ve always taught my students that too, just do what you can. If you laid it out there and did your best, that’s all you can ask for.”