Sunday, May 1, 2022

Episode 66: Gretchen Shoenstein, on Autoimmunity & 100 Half Marathons

This episode can be heard and shared on nearly all Podcast Apps, including Apple, Google, Spotify and Anchor! Please support by paying it forward/sharing, and giving us some stars on your favorite platform.

Gretchen Rock n' Rollin' thru another 13.1!

What would you do if you woke up and couldn't run around the block? What makes someone a dedicated distance runner? Is it the distance, number of steps training, effort, or the obstacles they overcome to finish? Or to even toe up to the start line? Maybe it's just the act of trying despite all difficulties, day in and day out? These are just a few of the questions we ponder in Episode 66.

Gretchen Shoenstein has dealt with these existential questions regularly, and many more, during her battle with several autoimmune disorders in her running lifetime, including one which attacks her lungs. The diagnoses she has received would normally mean an end to distance running, and truth be told she heard this from doctors... However, having a purpose to run 100 half marathons and give back to autoimmune disease research was a worthy enough goal to keep her running, even during the pandemic. And spoiler alert: she made it, just under her 10 year goal! She did so on her own schedule and with the support of an intentional village she has built, and also with intention in every mile. 

However, remarkably this is not the most impressive part of Gretchen's life or Gretchen as a person, rather it's her attitude and gratitude which shine through in every word, as she recounts stories and life lessons during this lifelong battle. It is as if running were the tap through which this force de vivre lives and shines, rather than "the answer". In our conversation, we examine how perhaps running is best as a catalyst for community, strength and purpose building, i.e. finding out what running can teach us about life, and vice versa. It has been part of the solution, for her and for me.  Among the best interviews I have done at Running Anthropologist, she demonstrates what it means to truly be grateful for each step and each breath, with her mantra "Every mile, every step, counts". She has so many good ones. Below are just a sample of what she shares in the episode.

Tips/Life hacks:

1) Have grace for yourself. Best way to do so? Pause and breathe.
2) Have a light, nimble touch on goals - know that you can pivot when need to.
3) Every. Step. Counts. (as does every mile) With each step is the possibility of joy and awe.
4) Listen to your body - *you* know best. Find that voice that tells you when to push and when to let off the gas.
5) Create your own finish lines - set smaller goals to achieve to keep the momentum going.

Last but not least, there is a worthy cause. She has both fundraised and raised awareness around autoimmune disease and autoimmune system disorders this entire journey, for "Operation Shooting Star" and "Benaroya Research Institute", who are on the cutting edge of treating, research and hopeful for the future of curing autoimmune diseases. Links to both of these organizations, and all the organizations and sponsors mentioned in the podcast can be found below under "services", provided directly by Gretchen (bottom of page).

Gretchen can also be found on her IG account @rungrateful

To read more about fundraising/awareness building efforts specifically and about her struggle and story of finishing an unexpected 100 half marathons journey, I encourage you to go to check out article:

As always, Message us @runninganthropologist on Facebook or Instagram with ideas, inspiration and input!

--Mark R Lane-Holbert, PhD(c) Educational Psychology, University of South Florida

Running Anthropologist, Copyright 2020-2022

Services Mentioned:

Seattle Acupuncture and Coaching, Ben Dorfman

Ascension Performance in San Diego

Training with Tucker Run Coach (anywhere)

Hot Yoga Experience in WA state

Science in Sport 

Newton Running Shoes

AI Research/Awareness
Benaroya Research Institute

Operation Shooting Star

General inspiration/foundation
Brad Stuhlberg and Growth Equation

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Episode 65: Achilles International, with Ellie Cox-Nihill

 Episode 65: Achilles International, with Ellie Cox-Nihill can be heard on most podcast Apps, including Apple, Google, Spotify and Anchor!

Posing with a friend, organizing nearby races!

In this episode we discuss all things Achilles, including their work with athletes of all abilities, empowering and supporting relationships between individuals. Both learn and grow as a result of these partnerships, athletes and volunteer guides (also athletes themselves). The magic is in local clubs, and the practice and fun together throughout the year building up to a major event, like NYC Marathon or Disney races!

Ellie has a great deal to share, and has been with the organization since 2008, and is in charge of US Chapters development and the online virtual clubs who meet for those who do not have local chapters. I am the direct beneficiary of this new virtual space, and connect with athletes from across the country learning to run through a training program, and inspiring one another. I might add that volunteers learn as much if not more from the experience, and as anyone who has been a guide will tell you: it transforms their run/walking and their relationship with the sport.  

Ellie organizing virtual events!

Ellie also shares a bit about the history and how she became inspired by her local New York City chapter, and what she has learned along the way supporting athletes for over a decade in events they dream of completing. What many thought was unimaginable are empowered to line up toe to toe with the elite athletes of the world, and learn from each other, overcoming challenges and sharing joy and hope!  

Among the many resources, one can visit and find out how to get involved or contribute at

Reach out to us with questions or your own stories of running cutlture and inspiration, here at our blogsite, Facebook or Instagram @runninganthropologist 

Below are the essentials, at a glance about their mission and programs:

Achilles International, a global organization operating in 18 countries including the US, transforms the lives of people with disabilities through athletic programs and social connection. Since our founding in 1983, we have empowered over 150,000 athletes of all ages and ability levels to participate in endurance events around the globe.

Achilles International’s portfolio of programs includes the Achilles Freedom Team which serves wounded military personnel and veterans; Achilles Kids which provides training, race opportunities, and an in-school program for children with disabilities; the TriAchilles Team which expands our running program into biking and swimming; Achilles Chapter workouts; and, our signature Hope & Possibility® race which takes place in several cities worldwide.

While our programs focus on running, our main objective has always been to bring hope, inspiration, and the joys of achievement to all.


United States: 28 Chapters in 19 States (+D.C.)

International: 42 Chapters in 17 Countries

And a bit more about Ellie from her sporty bio, as she heads into retirement and new adventures... from Achilles -

"She joined Achilles in 1996 and ran the 2000 NYC Marathon. Ellie directed Achilles NYC from Sept. 2009 through 2010 and assumed responsibility for U.S. Chapter Development in 2011. She coordinates all aspects of the AWD Family Reunion area post-NYC Marathon. With a BS in Media and Culture from SUNY/Empire State College and a Project Management Certificate from Baruch College, Ellie is also certified by the American Sailing Association in basic sailing, cruising, and navigation and coaches whenever possible."

Monday, March 7, 2022

"Unite for Ukraine" Challenge, Walk/Run Miles for Direct Relief

 "Unite for Ukraine" Challenge, A Peace Pilgrimage- Walk/Run Miles for Direct Relief

Instructions: Using the Challenge Google Doc, 

1) Pledge an amount/mile. 

2) Walk/Run & Log your Miles (you can also use the virtual pilgrimage app "Camino for Good"- will send an invite when you register using the google doc).

3) Donate using Direct Relief link provided whenever you're able! 

Note: You could also donate NOW based upon your goal mileage. 

4) As you go, PLEASE POST & SHARE inspiration/updates/photos with #UniteforUkraine - Share this challenge & JOIN the WhatsApp group, to learn more!

Shared by "Die Hard Running" Club of Kyiv, UA (@diehardrunningua)

We are trying to get local businesses/employers to match the challenge mile for mile, dollar for dollar- and will hopefully have more partners in the coming weeks - let us know if you recruit one, and we'll post their info here & on social media! 

Questions or ideas?  DM us @RunningAnthropologist on Instagram or Facebook!

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Episode 64: Eugen Godun on Ukraine now

In this episode, we interview a prominent marathoner and coach in the Ukrainian running community, Eugen Godun. He is from Kharkiv (recently taken over by the Russian army) and his current hometown of the last 2 years is Kyiv, which is currently under siege with the entire world hanging on edge. As might be expected, we talk less about running, and more about what things have been like this pat week for him, his family and friends. We get a pulse for the thoughts of Ukrainians right now, discuss the challenges of balancing one's family safety with the desire to fight back against unbelievable odds (a powerful and mostly uninformed Russia due to lack of press freedom under the de facto dictatorship of Putin). 

Did we mention Eugen is an incredibly talented runner and supports other aspiring runners throughout the region?  He has run the Kharkiv marathon and multiple long distance events across Ukraine (Sumy, Poltava, Odesa and Kyiv), along with 5 of the world majors and was slated to be in Boston a month from now, but this future is uncertain due to the current situation in his home country. 

You can find this episode just about anywhere you find podcasts, including Apple, Google, & Spotify Apps. Follow/ Message us @RunningAnthropologist on Instagram or Facebook. 

You can find Eugen Godun @jimmy_marathon on Instagram, and follow his runs on Strava. 

From his perspective, Ukraine's people until recently enjoyed freedoms under a completely democratic government and were very grateful they were moving towards the European Union under their elected president Zelensky. In fact, they overthrew a pro-Russian president (perceived by many as a puppet) less than a decade ago in 2014, to earn the right to determine their own destiny, and bring back power to the majority of the population. The overwhelming majority of young people in the Ukraine favor moving towards the West, rather than moving towards their neighboring Russians, and this war will certainly convince any doubters of that decision. This has moved to such an extent that the Ukrainian language has become a powerhouse of literacy and music. Eugen shares a bit about his own decision to shift to "only Ukrainian", despite his own Russian heritage. He is at the moment safely in the western part of the country, which has until now escaped fighting and been a safe corridor to seeking refuge in neighboring Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary.

CIA Map of the Region, with Ukraine at the center.

From a personal perspective, as a former Peace Corps teacher in Eastern Europe (Romania) and international relations/economics student in Budapest, I know the people of this region to be peace loving, committed to freedom, and extremely community oriented, who also suffered much under "communist" USSR. This included limitation of free speech, economic opportunity, mobility, as well as religious freedoms. No one is willing to return to these limitations of human rights and dignity, as they have fought incredibly hard to gain the freedoms they have, and their connection to the wider world. We in the running community from all I know are praying for a peaceful solution, yet are realistic that autocracies seldom yield to the welfare of others, and the rights of those they believe they can control. History has proven otherwise, and we would encourage anyone to work towards helping the autonomous people of Ukraine to again prevail, have the right to determine their own destiny, and suffer as little as possible in that quest.  Here are some causes / things you can do RIGHT NOW to help, in an article published by NPR:

You can also stay up to date on everything happening in Eastern Europe via New York Times Live Updates.  and make comments/post questions here. Feel free to share with us also, or reach out on our social media @runninganthropolgist.  Our hearts go out to all those suffering needlessly. May peace come quickly!

--M. Lane Holbert

Monday, February 14, 2022

Episode 63: 50 States, 50 Marathons! With Georges Gonzalez & Jonathan Rushnak

 This episode is available almost anywhere you find podcasts, including Google, Spotify, Apple and Anchor!

Georges Gonzalez and Jonathan Rushnak admit they were unlikely candidates to take on this life-changing challenge, but made magic together in their lifetime achievement this past January, as they completed their 50th marathon across 50 states in the U.S.! This began as a pipe dream 7 years ago, and thousands of miles ago (on feet and in the air traveling!).
In this episode, we spend a great deal of time discussing the HOW and WHY behind such an attempt, including the communities that supported them, and the contribution it has made to their lives overall. They also give us their "tops lists" for unique marathons, marathons harboring hidden gems of culture, most challenging marathons, and most surprising, among others!
You may be surprised by the "lessons learned" portion of our talk as well, which includes tips and tricks for the 50 states challenge, but also planning and destination races in general. Some of the resources we discuss are: the 50 states club Facebook Group, the official entry process (only after completing 10 races), the process they went through deciding which marathons to run, and how to organize them around a yearly calendar to not go crazy or suffer injury.
You can hear the joy and gratitude in their voices, and at times the emotions that accompany a heart-changing race such as the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC. While such a challenge is not for the faint of heart, it should also not be mistaken to be only for an "elite" or expert runners experience, as they admit at the beginning of it (at least Georges) did not even consider himself marathon material and had to be talked into his first. A decade ago, he would quip "I am not a runner", and now has much evidence to the contrary...

Te learn more about each marathon on their list and explore what each has to offer (and IF they are being run during the ongoing pandemic, restrictions, etc.) you will have to visit their websites!  Explore below, and also feel free to explore Georges and Jonathan's recommended facebook group:  
Note: There is also a Half Marathon 50 States group!  That being said, in order to apply for either, see rules or officially become a member of the 50 States Marathon Club, you'll have to go to this website: 
Below is a list of the 50 States Marathons, in order of appearance on their roster, with location and website:

#1) Space Coast MarathonCocoa, Florida –,

2) Go! St. Louis MarathonSt. louis, Missouri –– 

3) Air Force Marathon, Dayton, Ohio –

4) Twin Cities MarathonMinneapolis, Minnesota – 

5) Marine Corps MarathonArlington, Virginia

6) First Light MarathonMobile, Alabama – 

7) Louisiana MarathonBaton Rouge, Louisiana – 

8) Myrtle Beach MarathonMyrtle Beach, South Carolina 

9) Albany MarathonAlbany, Georgia – 

10) Wrightsville Beach MarathonWrightsville BeachNorth Carolina 

11) Vermont City Marathon, BurlingtonVermont 

12) Marathon to Marathon, Storm Lake, Iowa 

13) Swan Lake Marathon, Viborg, South Dakota 

14) Rockies Marathon, Lakewood, Colorado – 

15) Pocatello Marathon, PocatelloIdaho – 

16) Big Cottonwood Marathon, Salt Lake City, Utah 

17) Chicago Marathon, Chicago, Illinois 

18) Fargo Marathon, Fargo, North Dakota – 

19) Pacific Crest Marathon, Bend, Oregon – 

20) Lake Placid Marathon, Lake Placid, New York – 

21) Missoula Marathon, Missoula, Montana – 

22) Extraterrestrial Full Moon Midnight Marathon, Rachel, Nevada – 

23) Lake Michigan Trail Marathon, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 

24) Texas Marathon, Kingwood, Texas – 

25) Garmin MarathonOlatheKansas – 

26) Maine Coast Marathon, Kennebunk, Maine 

27) Sweet Southern Discomfort Marathon, Chattanooga, Tennessee –

28) Omaha Marathon, Omaha, Nebraska – 

29) Route 66 Marathon, Tulsa, Oklahoma – 

30) Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon, Biloxi, Mississippi – 

31) Holiday Series – Day 5 Marathon, Las Cruces, New Mexico –

32) Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon, Phoenix, Arizona – 

33) City of Los Angeles Marathon, Los Angeles, California –

34) Hogeye Marathon, Springdale, Arkansas –

35) New Jersey Marathon, Lakewood, New Jersey –

36) Pittsburgh Marathon, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania –

37) Wyoming Marathon, Cheyenne, Wyoming –

38) Charlevoix Marathon, Charlevoix, Michigan –

39) Jack and Jill Downhill Marathon day 2North Bend, Washington 

40) Anchorage RunFest Humpy’s MarathonAnchorage, Alaska –

41) Baltimore Run Festival Marathon, Baltimore, Maryland

42) CMC Manchester City Marathon, Manchester, New Hampshire

43) Rehoboth Seashore Marathon, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware – 

44) Carmel Marathon, Carmel, Indiana – 

45) Humana Kentucky Derby Marathon, Louisville, Kentucky – 

46) Red Island State Marathon, Warwick, Rhode Island – Red Island Marathon | NewEngland Challenge 

47) Hatfield and McCoy Marathon, South Williamson, Kentucky  Hatfield McCoy Marathon (

48) New England Green River Marathon, Greenfield, Massachusetts – New England Green River Marathon

49) Hartford Marathon, Hartford, Connecticut  Road Races in Connecticut | Hartford Marathon Foundation

50) Maui Oceanfront Marathon, Maui, Hawaii – HOME | Maui (

Somewhere in the desert, near Area 51 in Nevada's "Extraterrestrial Full Moon Midnight Marathon"

Please share this with like-minded "running anthropologists", and follow us on social media, feel free to join us on Facebook or Instagram @RunningAnthropologist, and feel free to leave a comment below featuring your favorite marathons / destination races!

Fun Stuff you can join with us from anywhere!
Current challenges:
1) Phidippides 327+ challenge in 2022, that Jeff Galloway is organizing along with Dean Karnazes, as a cultural/historical journey to highlight the role of marathon/ultra runners in  forming early democracy:

2) Recovery Camino: A 12 principles pilgrimage (in person or virtual) along the Camino de Santiago each summer:   VIRTUAL walk-run OPTION: