Runner Takes on Bold Challenge: 2 Half Marathons, 2 Coasts, 2 Days and $20,000 for Autoimmune Disease Research

March 6, 2024

Benefits Benaroya Research Institute, global leader in human immunology research

Washington D.C. and Portland, OR, March 2024 /ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – Gretchen Schoenstein will run two half marathons, on two coasts, in two days to raise $20,000 for autoimmune disease research at Benaroya Research Institute (BRI), a global leader in human immune system research. She’ll run the Rock N’ Roll Marathon in Washington, D.C., on March 16, 2024, then fly to Portland, Oregon for the Shamrock Run the next day.

Gretchen’s efforts are tied to March Autoimmune Disease Awareness Month. She has lived with autoimmune diseases since she was nine years old.

“I’ve spent most of my life battling these diseases. I’ve endured the frustration of not getting the right diagnosis. I’ve dealt with the trial and error of finding the right medicine while waiting, in pain, for answers,” Gretchen says.

These diseases happen when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue as if it were a dangerous germ. There are more than 110 autoimmune diseases affecting one in 10 Americans. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), multiple sclerosis (MS) and type 1 diabetes (T1D) are among the most common. Autoimmune diseases have no cure and most treatments target the symptoms but not the actual cause of the disease.

“I got my third autoimmune disease diagnosis in 2006: Sarcoidosis, which affects the lungs and, in my case, the joints,” she says. “The doctors told me I’d probably never run again. Now I’m running my 121st and 122nd half marathons. I know that I don’t always feel good. So when I do, I take the world by storm.”

Gretchen is a longtime BRI supporter. She first learned about the organization when she attended the research nonprofit’s 2014 luncheon while visiting her mom in Seattle. Hearing about BRI’s work made her feel seen and inspired because BRI doesn’t just study a singular autoimmune disease. The organization studies the entire immune system and uses insights about one disease to make progress against others.

“BRI put all these brilliant scientists in the same room, working together, because they realized that discoveries about RA or T1D may also lead to insights for MS or Crohn’s disease,” she says. “That’s why I know that if anyone finds a cure, it will be BRI.”

Leading up to the races, Gretchen will train in moderation and vigilantly listen to her body. She’s increased her strength training and will focus on keeping each mile consistent throughout both events. Her motivation is simple: She’s doing this because she can, right now.

“If you had told me — lying in that hospital bed in 2006 — that I would run 120 half-marathons and counting, I wouldn’t believe it,” she says. “My running has always been bigger than me. I run with the ghost of these diseases. I run for people who are going through a difficult diagnosis and can’t yet see that it can get better. And I run for everyone who can’t.”

She also tries to stay curious, enjoy the experience and take each race step by step and mile by mile.

“Every step is a gift, every mile is an accomplishment and every finish line is a victory,” she says. “I know that there will be a day when I cannot do this, but today is not that day.”

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About Gretchen Schoenstein

Gretchen Schoenstein is a half marathon runner, an autoimmune disease warrior and an award-winning speaker and certified coach with over two decades of experience in leadership development and talent management. Her career spans working with a diverse array of organizations, including large and small technology firms, non-profit entities, politics, startups, educational foundations, and companies in the retail, finance, hospitality, environmental and beauty sectors. Her inspirational journey from overcoming adversity to crossing the finish line of over 120 half-marathons informs every aspect of her life. She is the Founder and CEO of Finish Line Moments Coaching and Consulting.



Gretchen Schoenstein



About Benaroya Research Institute

Benaroya Research Institute (BRI) is a world leader in human immune system research. BRI works to advance the science that will predict, prevent, reverse and cure immune system diseases like allergies, asthma, cancer, COVID-19 and autoimmune diseases. BRI accelerates discovery through laboratory breakthroughs in immunology that are then translated to clinical therapies. We believe that a breakthrough in one immune system disease can lead to progress against them all, and work tirelessly toward our vision of a healthy immune system for everyone. BRI is a world-renowned independent nonprofit research institute affiliated with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health and based in Seattle.


Annie Shutlz, Director of Marketing and Communications