Sammamish mother juggles career, raising kids and running extreme distances
October 11, 2011
By Patti Enos
All Jennifer “Jenn” Hughes wants is to be a good mom, run a 100K race and manage a successful business.
Hughes is a Sammamish woman who juggles many ambitions while she stays organized, focused and energized on the trails ahead.
“I am inspired to live life as fully as I can,” she said as a huge smile extended across her face.
The 2000 University of Washington graduate worked in the Nordstrom corporate office in marketing after graduation. But when her son was born, Colin, now 4, Hughes changed direction to allow more time to focus on motherhood, running long distances and finding an outlet for the many ideas that keep developing in her mind.
“I have to laugh,” she said. “I spent most of the day yesterday working on my laptop from my son’s mini kid table while he played trains. I find a way to get it all done.”
Hughes is considered an ultra runner, an individual who participates in an event that involves a distance longer than a 26.2-mile marathon. Have you noticed a petite woman who pulls a tire behind her as she runs the steep hills of the Issaquah Highlands? That’s her.
“It’s an old weight belt with two poles that attaches to a big car tire and drags on the ground. Greg built it for me,” explained the 5-foot, 2-inch dynamo.
Greg Manciagli is the significant man in her life. He understands the rigorous training required because he is an ultra runner, too.
“I try to manage my own expectations,” Hughes said. “If I don’t feel like running at some point, I will stop and walk and try not to feel disappointed.”
In the wee hours of the morning or late at night, Hughes wears a headlamp to run local area trails in the darkness in order to accumulate the recommended number of miles.
“When I head out for my daily run, I use it an as opportunity to hit ‘refresh’ on my active life,” she said. “Running gives me the opportunity to reconnect with myself. When I return home, often problems are resolved and worries are dissolved.”
Her intense running schedule was due to the challenges she placed on herself when she signed up for an ultra-marathon in August. Although she has completed 50K- and 50-mile races, Hughes maneuvered through extreme terrain in the Waldo 100K, a 20,000-foot-elevation-gain course in Central Oregon.
The Waldo 100K Ultramarathon is a challenging 100K loop-type course starting at Willamette Pass Ski Area (70 miles east of Eugene, Ore.) at elevation 5,120. The route climbs several mountains, including Fuji, The Twins and Maiden Peak, before returning to the ski area.
The next goal she began is the launch of a start-up business with Manciagli.
“Greg is a co-owner and helps with many of the behind-the-scene tasks so that I can focus on other areas,” she said. “He believes in me and in our business. It’s nice to have someone have your back.”
Hughes was bored with solid color options in running attire. Their company, Run Pretty Far, produces brightly colored athletic wear with inspirational messages for female athletes. The couple prepared for months to develop their ideas into a performance apparel clothing line. In April, they decided to take a leap of faith to leave their jobs and focus solely on the business.
Colorado artist Darah Macres collaborates on the designs to create many styles for performance tank tops, T-shirts and other accessories.
“Run Pretty Far is much about helping women feel beautiful on their journey, whatever that may be,” Macres said. “Whether it is losing those pounds, training for a marathon or taking a stroll, it is an act of discipline and commitment. It is not always easy and not always a joy. But, while we are at it, we can feel comfortable, feel feminine and express ourselves with fashion while working hard out there.”
To promote their new products, Hughes and Manciagli travel in a vintage motor home named Wilbur to marathon expos up and down the West Coast. This summer, the partners set up their booth at running events in Washington, Oregon, California and Utah.
The unique performance clothing has already caught the attention of Dimity McDowell Davis, Runner’s World contributor and co-author of “Run Like A Mother: How to Get Moving and Not Lose Your Family, Job or Sanity.”
“We’ve seen a lot of running fashions in our day, but we hadn’t ever seen anything like what she was wearing,” she said.