5 of Philly's strongest women entrepreneurs drive Philly Runs Free toward success.
Updated: Feb 19
And they want to help YOU make an impact.
Article by Nick Malfitano
As Legacy of Hope gears up its preparation for the Love Run Half-Marathon and
7K events on March 29, it spotlights some of the business partnerships it has
cultivated to help make the event a success – but more importantly, the women at
the helm of those same businesses.
entrepreneurs who have not only forged alliances with Legacy of Hope, but are
actively contributing in many ways to the success of the Love Run races.
These women are movers and shakers in the local fitness community who are not
only aligned with Legacy of Hope, but are ensuring that runners participating in
the Love Run can do so for free, train for the event at discounted rates and provide
a palpable and immediate impact to the lives of cancer patients in Philadelphia.
A licensed physical therapist and certified personal trainer, Gina Mancuso co-
founded workout group CoreFitness. Since its inception, CoreFitness has been an
integral partner and collaborator with Legacy of Hope.
“Over the past couple of years, CoreFitness has developed a great working
relationship with Legacy of Hope, and we are really proud to be involved in
supporting that organization,” Mancuso said.
“When Legacy of Hope became the official charity partner for the Love Run, Mike
[Rowe, founder of Legacy of Hope] reached out to me and asked if I was interested
in creating some training programs for #PhillyRunsFree, which is the partnership
between the Love Run and Legacy of Hope.”
Mancuso said she worked alongside both Rowe and Michele Redrow to develop
the concept that CoreFitness could provide training plans not just for participants
of #PhillyRunsFree, but for the entire Love Run event.
The training programs to which Mancuso were referred are both listed on the Love
Run’s website and are sent to participants of both the Love Run Half-Marathon and
7K, each lasting 12 weeks.
“They include recommendations for not just running, but rest days and cross-
training, too. There are so many other things that need to be done in order to
prepare for a good race, besides running. Obviously, the run training is a critical
piece of it, but if we don’t prepare our bodies in other ways, then we’re just setting
ourselves up for injury,” Mancuso said.
Mancuso elaborated that to be a strong and injury resistant-runner, focusing on the
development of one’s core is a crucial component to cross-training: And not just on
one’s abdominal muscles, but also hips and shoulders.
“In making those areas as strong and agile as possible, you become a better,
stronger, safer runner,” Mancuso stated.
In addition to cross-training, Mancuso pointed to proper nutrition, hydration,
stretching and self-care as keys to achieving optimum performance on race day.
“A yoga class is a good component to add into your regular training program,”
according to Mancuso. “And you can’t forget about rest days, either. Every body and everybody needs to rest in order to rebuild.”
Mancuso shared that while keeping people in good physical shape was a piece of
her purpose as a fitness professional, she looked for a larger reason and outlet
through which to contribute her efforts and the opportunity to partner with
philanthropic organizations such as Legacy of Hope meant she found it.
Mancuso explained her goal has been in utilizing her business as a platform
through which to introduce fitness-minded people to Legacy of Hope and its
mission of assisting those battling cancer.
“What can we do collectively as a group? We have all of these members and walk-
ins who are full of energy and great ideas, and when we unite together, that’s really
what it’s all about,” Mancuso said. “Gathering all the kinetic energy of anyone who comes to our classes or works out with us, and putting that energy into really specific, definable, measurable goals, which is supporting people with cancer.”
If anyone is interested in checking our future workouts with CoreFitness to get
ready for the Love Run, attend the following free sessions or go to their website for
a complete list.
Sunday, March 8: #PhillyRunsFree Boot Camp at 9 a.m. at the Art Museum steps.
Open to anyone (need not be registered for Love Run or Philly Runs Free).
Registration appreciated so we can anticipate class size. Register here.
Saturday, March 21: CoreFitness Outdoor Boot Camp Spring Season Kick-Off.
Free for everyone, all fitness levels welcome. Register here.
The co-owner of CGI Racing, the organization which presents the Love Run,
Michele Redrow began event planning with a worldwide production company that
transitioned into holding triathlons – subsequent to when Redrow and her husband began competing in such events themselves. Their company began with five triathlons between Philadelphia and Maryland in their first year alone.
“In 2010, we decided to branch out into running. The first race we did was the
Rutgers Half-Marathon, which we still have today. We did that and it was really
successful. I have a lot of fantastic relationships in Philly, and my husband and I
kept saying, ‘Why is there no spring half-marathon in Philadelphia?” Redrow said.
Redrow said the company’s motto for introducing The Love Run in 2014 was “to
go big or go home” and the goal was to sell out registration for the first year at
10,000 people. They did.
“That first year, behind Rock & Roll San Antonio, we were actually the largest,
newest half-marathon in the country. It took a lot of work to get there, as it always
does. The whole mission statement for The Love Run was to combine everything
we love about Philadelphia with everything we love about running, and bring those
two together,” Redrow stated.
Redrow explained she met Mike Rowe in the first year of holding The Love Run,
when CGI Racing was focusing on bringing runners of all levels together on teams
to both have a better experience and be able to fundraise for charity.
“We really have prided ourselves on giving these teams the ability to fundraise, to
use our race as a platform. My husband and I, through the volunteers and through
other avenues, have raised since inception, about $575,000 that we as a race have
donated back to the local community. That’s a huge stepping stone for us in doing
this,” Redrow said.
The race organizer said that Rowe envisioned the concept of #PhillyRunsFree
during the first year of The Love Run, but was able to bring it to fruition the
following year. Redrow recalled saying to Rowe at the time that she thought that
they could really change the way Philadelphia is impacted by cancer.
“And not only that, the thing that really struck me was you never think about the
families and you never think about what they’re going through. And I kept
stressing to Mike, ‘You’ve got to get these stories out and tell [the families] that
this is what you’re doing,” Redrow said.
“To think that not only is it bad enough that you’re dealing with cancer, but you
can’t pay your water bill or you can’t put food on the table. That was really what
threw me over the top and I said, ‘We need to do something and help Mike.’ Of
course, he asked me to join the [Legacy of Hope] board and I was like,
‘Absolutely, I’d love to do it.”
Redrow said the goal of helping other people is not just the goal of The Love Run,
but Philadelphia’s running community in general, and expressed optimism that
Legacy of Hope would reach its fundraising goal for this year’s race, which is
“I just think if you’re passionate about something, the success follows. Not only as
an avid runner, but I just really believe in our racing and our races. I thank God
every day, because I think, ‘How lucky am I? I get up every day and I do what I
love,” Redrow said.
“The thing that really gets me though is my ability to, in my career, be able to help
such a huge amount of people, like a Legacy of Hope – that I could ever think that
something I created is not just, ‘Hey, let’s skip across the finish line, it’s actually
making a difference in the city and the region. That to me is just kind of mind-
Redrow added it was great to help build the partnership between The Love Run
and Legacy of Hope, one she hopes lasts for years to come and continues to make a
“I hope that we can get the stories out this year of how this is helping people. Our
whole thing #PhillyRunsFree, which has become our name and our hashtag, really
says it all. If we can just pull that together, this is what that’s about,” Redrow said.
A Philadelphia-area native, Jen Wendowski attended Temple University and majored in marketing. A lifelong athlete, Wendowski played soccer, lacrosse and field hockey growing up, before getting into the worlds of CrossFit and yoga as an adult. Though, yoga was admittedly an acquired taste for Wendowski at first. “I thought that would be a great way to take care of myself as I was getting older. But, I didn’t like yoga,” Wendowski said with a laugh.
“I just thought it was slow, boring, and kind of weird sometimes, and I think a lot
of people feel that way. But I’ve since learned there are a lot of different styles of
yoga. So, if you don’t like one class, then try a different studio. You might like
Wendowski recalled that while she enjoyed her career in sales, she was ready for a
change. A new livelihood came calling in the form of opening her own yoga studio
in the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia, named Yoga Habit. The studio will
be open for 4 years this May.
“Our mission there is to connect people, and that’s like connecting people to other
people, so we all feel like we have a sense of belonging. But also, yoga is about
connecting yourself to your body more, connecting yourself to your mind more, so
you’re emotionally, spiritually and socially, feeling really good.”
Wendowski’s signature brand of yoga is power yoga, an athletic, intense style
which focuses on breath and movement. Other styles offered by the studio include
Power Basics and Slow Flow & Restore, which are more focused on foundational
techniques and restorative relaxation, respectively.
Wendowski said for those running all the time, their bodies and muscles are very
contracted and with yoga, they’re just lengthening everything out a little bit more.
The yoga teacher explained that many runners’ hamstrings are short and sometimes
so tight that it’s holding their pelvis down, which can lead to other issues.
The classes offered at Yoga Habit provide a healthy and calming challenge for
runners and other athletes.
As far as how Wendowski became aligned with Legacy of Hope, she pointed to
“Gina is really the one who taught me about [Legacy of Hope] and it all started
with PHL24. She asked me if we wanted to lead a yoga class during it, and she told
me about its mission. One of our instructors has cancer, and it was trying to figure
out how she wants to use her yoga knowledge to benefit cancer patients. Then,
Gina approached me about partnering with you.”
Wendowski said that Legacy of Hope’s mission is focused on specific needs of
patients, leading to a direct impact that feels very personal. “It’s great to have yoga exposed to more people, that’s great. But what excites me
more is using my business as a vehicle for helping others. I like being part of a
greater mission and I love that it feels more personal,” Wendowski said.
A Lehigh University alumnus and former Division I athlete, Lauren Krinis carried
forth her love of fitness into becoming both a certified personal trainer and
certified nutrition therapy practitioner, in addition to founding Lauren Krinis
Nutrition & Fitness.
“As a trainer, I felt there has been a stronger focus on the fitness world than ever
before. This makes me happy, obviously. However, the nutrition portion is often
neglected when people are trying to get in their best shape. All too often, quick
fixes and commercialized supplements have taken the place of getting to the root
of the problem,” Krinis said.
“I think it’s important to know that the way you fuel your body, whether or not you
are working out, has a huge impact on your wellness efforts and overall health. I
feel that nutrition should be the forerunner for health and healing your body from
the inside out. From there the physical changes will come. I think it’s time
nutrition has its turn to shine, as it can change everything about the way you look
and feel, and most importantly, live.”
Krinis outlined her philosophy towards assisting everyday people get comfortable
with health, fitness and nutrition. “I wanted to create a place that will meet you where YOU are as a person, help you map out a plan to reach your full potential and have guidance in doing so along the way,” Krinis said.
“Each person is unique and needs a customized plan. I believe fitness, nutrition and
mindfulness are the ultimate combination to happy and healthy lifestyle. The
approach for each varies from person to person as does discovering the style that
suits you best. Health should not be just for the rich and famous, you should be
able to seek health and wellness advice at an affordable price and be able to apply
it to your daily life.”
According to Krinis, it was through Gina Mancuso that she first became acquainted
with Legacy of Hope. It was a connection that Krinis said she saw grow, as she
learned more about the group and the crucial work they do for local cancer
“Gina Mancuso introduced me to Mike Rowe and the amazing team of people
involved at Legacy of Hope. To be honest, at first I wanted to be involved to show
support for her, but the more I learned about the direct impact this charity has on
Philadelphia residents struggling with cancer, the more I wanted to continue to
push to help,” Krinis stated.
For Krinis, her hope is to spread the sense of community found among local fitness
enthusiasts to events involving Legacy of Hope – which she said would be
“showing our support in numbers in a way that feels close to [her] heart, running
for a good cause that makes a REAL difference.”
Phila Massages co-founder Natacha Vidal, who runs the company along with her
husband Paul Vidal, recalled the circumstances which led to her pursuing massage
therapy and founding her business.
“I am originally half French and Zambian. As a family, we were expatriates, so I
grew up traveling all over the world. I eventually moved to France to study and
work as a physical therapist, then moved to the U.S. with my husband. While
working on getting my U.S. physical therapy equivalency, I started working as a
sports massage therapist and opened Phila Massages.
Vidal explained a collection of factors was behind the founding of Phila Massages,
and that she wanted combine her medical knowledge with sports therapy to put
them into practice. 2020 marks a full decade in business for Phila Massages.
“As a result, Phila Massages is an evidence-based practice that focuses on modern
and proven techniques; I insisted on the science part of it, as I found that both the
massage and sports fields could be lacking on that aspect.”
According to Vidal, local runners make up a significant portion of the business’s
clientele, as they are seen “very often” in an effort to prevent injuries.
“The key word here is prevent. We encourage runners to come and see us
throughout their training, before any one area becomes problematic or injured. For
that reason, one of the discounts we offer to #PhillyRunsFree runners is 15 percent
off memberships. A 3-month membership for instance, will take them through
most of their training.”
Vidal pointed to Legacy of Hope founder Mike Rowe as being Phila Massages’
connection to the organization. “We knew him before he became CEO of Legacy of Hope. When he did start working with Legacy of Hope, he told us about it and his passion and commitment to the organization was infectious: We instantly became passionate and committed to it too,” Vidal stated.
Phila Massages was only too happy to add its expertise and support. “Obviously cancer is something that affects all of us, directly or indirectly. In 2017, we suffered both the losses of a beloved client and of a beloved partner/friend/coach, which affected many of us on the team. I know personal battles are fought around us every day, and they can be devastating. We are thankful that we can help fight these battles by supporting Legacy of Hope,” Vidal
Vidal concluded, “We hope #PhillyRunsFree runners have a great race. We will
see you at the after-party. There will be massages involved!”
Those both looking to run and contribute to the work Legacy of Hope does, can
sign up through the group’s #PhillyRunsFree initiative.
Runners who sign up for the Love Run Half-Marathon or 7K on March 29 and
raise $200 for Legacy of Hope, will have their race registration fee automatically
Runners can visit #PhillyRunsFree to register for the Love Run Half-Marathon.
When prompted, select “Philly Runs Free Opt-In.” All runners who opt-in are still
eligible to run with their home team and will be prompted to join that team during
the registration process.
Donate to Legacy of Hope and #PhillyRunsFree at this fundraising link! You can also quickly and easily donate with Venmo @LegacyofHope!