Gretchen Schoenstein busted out a black Sharpie and on her left calf scribbled “50th.” On her right calf she jotted “RnR Half.”

The woman who grew up in Philadelphia and now lives in California ran her 50th Rock ‘n Roll half at the 40th American Association for Cancer Research Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.

A man running his first 13.1-miler shadowed Schoenstein almost the entire race and pulled her aside when they crossed the finish line near the Philadelphia Art Museum.

“I was pacing off you the whole race,” the man said. “I told myself, ‘If she can do 50 of them, I can do this one.’”

She heard cheers of “Good job!” and “Congratulations!” along the course.

Schoenstein, 45, has an auto-immune disease and other health issues issues during her journey.


Gretchen Schoenstein showing off her leg that reads “50th RnR Half.”


“I keep getting up,” she said.

With no apologies, she admits Philly is her favorite Rock ‘n’ Roll course. And what a stunningly beautiful and historic course it is. From the art museum footsteps, the Rocky and George Washington statues just a Carson Wentz football lob from each other near the start. Along Market Street, past William Penn standing atop City Hall, then for miles along the greenery parallel to the Schuykill River, back to the museum.

“Outside of San Diego, it’s the most energizing course,” said Schoenstein. “Everyone comes out.”

On the inside of her left forearm is a white tattoo that reads “breathe anyways.” There’s a Sanskrit tattoo that means “gratitude.” Another, in Latin, means “I am enough.”

Asked what has been the impact of her Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series journey and Schoenstein pauses for a moment, looking off in the distance, thinking,

“It feels validating,” she finally said. “I’m always finding balance in my running. Part of it is trying to overcome. Part of it is I know it’s not just about me. I know I’m just one person. And I know every step, every mile, every race has been worth it. My running is bigger than me.”