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A passion for running: Bartz shares what he has learned from marathons

Dennis Bartz began his life as a runner in 1965 when he joined the junior high cross-country running team. Forty-six years, thousands upon thousands of miles and 21 marathons later, Bartz continues to push the pace.

Well, as much as he can.

"I'm slowing down, but I'm starting to accept it," Bartz said.

Bartz, known to many as "Barny," is a 58-year-old Bemidji State University alumnus, former Bemidji High School coach and author of a new book entitled "Run For Your Life ... The Marathon, Minnesota Style."

The book revolves around running while also sharing what Bartz has learned from marathoning, his coaches and people who have inspired him in running.

"It's a collection of my life on the run," Bartz said. "It's been a work in progress over the last 15- 20 years."

The book consists of 26 chapters, each one reflecting one mile of the marathon, which is 26.2 miles long.

Bartz has run 21 of these grueling races, including the prestigious Boston Marathon twice, in 1979 and 1996. The Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon and requires qualifying times to enter.

While the Boston race may be the most prestigious Bartz has run, his most memorable came in 2007 when he ran the entirety of the Rochester Marathon with his daughter Tracy.

"I was debating whether to run it step by step with my daughter until she told me that she was going to be leaving for graduate school in Seattle in the fall," Bartz said. "It's really neat doing 26 miles next to your kid."

Bartz's personal best is 2 hours, 46 minutes and 15 seconds in the marathon, with a personal record of 1:22 in the half-marathon.

Bartz said he runs "because my head and my body benefit from it. I need it."

Bartz says he can feel it if he doesn't run for a while, so he does his best to stay in top shape running three miles a day, every day.

"That or something equivalent, whether it's nine miles of biking, 30 minutes of lifting or 30 minutes of chopping wood," he said.

Bartz was a track and cross-country captain during college at BSU, and in his home you can find dozens of medals, ribbons, trophies and plaques. But his current goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon when he turns 60 years old.

"I set my sights on a race and I go for it," Bartz said. "It might be six months away; it might be nine months away, or even a year away."

Dedication is something Bartz is extremely familiar with, and in 2009 he proved it, racing the Rock-N-Roll Seattle Marathon after accidentally gashing his leg with a chainsaw while cutting trees. He received 13 stitches 13 days before the race.

"It bled a little bit during runs the week before, but it was fine on race day," said Bartz.

Bartz isn't only dedicated to running races. He also takes pride in organizing them.

"A big thing for me and my wife Deb is organizing a race, rather than running it," Bartz said.

Bartz and his wife have been in charge of the Tutto Bene 10K for the last 18 years, adding the Cabin Coffeehouse 2-Mile along the way. The races garnered 392 runners this last year.

"We've gone from it being strictly a race to more of an attempt to have everyone participate," said Bartz.

Whether it be running marathons, coaching teams, writing books or organizing races in the community, Bartz is one of the most dedicated runners in the history of Bemidji.

- Dennis Bartz will be doing two book signings for his book, "Run For Your Life ... The Marathon, Minnesota Style." The first will be at The Cabin Coffeehouse from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, June 24. The second will be at Kat's Book Nook, 750 Paul Bunyan Drive N.W., from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, June 25. Copies of the book will be available for $13 including tax at both signings and also may be purchased by emailing Bartz at