Running without fear or sight

Attending church services has many benefits that include spiritual fitness, social wellness and opportunities to serve others in the community. A unique opportunity for serving and blessing a student from the University of Central Arkansas arose last summer for a church member during coffee cup/fellowship time between services at Peace Lutheran Church.

UCA student Jenna Scott was sitting at a table with Jennifer Bruenger and discovered that they both enjoyed running and shared a few stories about training and racing. During the ride back to Jenna’s dorm, she asked Jennifer to consider being her running partner and guide as Jenna is legally blind.

Both women discussed with 501 LIFE, meeting at Peace Lutheran, the origins of their running partnership and the benefits that can be achieved by helping others become happier and healthier.

The two runners hold on to a strip of cloth to maneuver their route. (Mike Kemp photos)

Jennifer Bruenger

How many years have you been a runner? 

Three or four years.

Most memorable race? 

I only have a few under my belt, so each has its own memories. I will say I get a little teary-eyed when I finish each race because of the feeling of accomplishment. 

Describe the technique for your runs with Jenna: 

The first time we ran I was so nervous. This was so out of my comfort zone. Besides, I usually train by myself. But it was so incredibly simple. All we have is a strip of cloth. I wrap one end around my hand, and she wraps the other around hers. That’s it. I do talk her through the training like calling out “bridge” or “puddle.” I describe to her where we are running and if there is a change in surface. I tug on the cloth to steer her or stop and walk when I feel it is dangerous. 

What led you to be a running partner with Jenna? 

I actually had been praying for an opportunity to serve someone else, and I would literally say the next week Jenna asked for a ride home, and on the way back I said, “Ok God, this is so out of my comfort zone, but I will try it.”   

It was hard at first because I am a solo runner. Then she wanted to join my long run. I was like no way, but did it anyway. She killed me. We kept doing it and it got easier. It was hard at first because I felt unbalanced. I have to make sure to switch sides that I run with her on. We have been doing it long enough now we seem to be in sync.

What have you learned as a guide runner? 

Jenna just goes. All we have is this little piece of cloth. I watch her, and she runs forward so boldly with complete trust in me. It is a big responsibility. She totally face-planted one time, and I felt bad but I learned from it. The biggest thing I learned is to treat her as normal as possible. I don’t help her with a lot of things because she really doesn’t need my help. My job is to guide her and not lead her. She is perfectly capable of making her own way and needs someone to steer her in the right direction. Once she figures it out, there is no stopping her. 

Describe any “wow moments” while running with Jenna? 

People with disabilities need to be given the opportunity to be independent. I am a Special Education teacher, and I realize that more and more every day I spend with her. We have to give them the skills to be independent. She is brave and amazing. I’m thankful for her parents who have given her that independence. 

Any plans for running some races with Jenna in 2020? 

The RussVegas half marathon in April.

How has the running friendship with Jenna blessed you? 

As any runner might experience while running with a buddy; when you are alone with the person for sometimes a couple of hours you talk. It gets you through some of the tedium of running long distances. We talk about anything, everything and everyone. You don’t want to know where some of our conversations lead! 

Besides running, how have you and your family blessed Jenna? 

She is an incredible example of a brave Christian woman. Her faith is strong and her spirit joyful, a beautiful example of God’s workmanship.

UCA student Jenna Scott (left) and her running partner Jennifer Bruenger.

Jenna Scott



When did you start running?

Eighth grade.

How did you get into running? 

I told my mom that I wanted to do something active and I was driving her crazy. My mom investigated and told me about running cross country.

Describe your cross country races in high school?

I hated each race, but my coach liked them and seeing how the team performed. My coach is a ferocious competitor. 

What led you to UCA? 

The Physical Therapy program.

What are you majoring in? 

Speech Pathology.

Describe your dream job once you graduate? 

Becoming a physical therapist.

How does running benefit you? 

It is a major stress relief and energy outlet. 

What other hobbies do you enjoy (besides running)? 

Singing and serving.

Best running shoe you have owned? 

An Adidas model that, unfortunately, I can’t find ever again.

How has Peace Lutheran Church impacted your life?

It definitely has made my college life more interesting. 

Complete this sentence “If I don’t get my running workout in, I feel … 

Oh boy …restless and extremely irritable.

Karl Lenser
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