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Meet The Team: Our Amazing Staff & Coaches

Paul Epstein

OWNER

From Naples, Florida, Paul graduated from The University of Florida where he went on to fly helicopters for the Army during Desert Storm. He met his wife, Cherie', in El Paso before moving to Pensacola in 1997. A few years later they opened Running Wild and had 3 beautiful daughters. A runner and coach for nearly 40 years, he knows running and enjoys helping others reach their goals.

Cherie Epstein

OWNER

From El Paso,Texas, Cherie grew up riding mountain bikes through the desert and working as a ski instructor in New Mexico where she met Paul. She ran competitively in high school and went on to run for Texas State University (formerly SWT) where she graduated with a degree in Communications and Marketing and then a masters in Education from UTEP. She has competed in countless running events including marathons and Ironman Florida when her three daughters were under the age of 5. She is now training to keep up with them.

Mike Overton

FOOTWEAR MANAGER

Mike is from Pensacola and after graduating from Catholic High School he lived in Los Angeles and then worked as a cycling guide through Vermont. He completed his first Half Ironman in the early 80’s and has the experience to lead any level of athlete. Graduated from FSU, Mike has an Excercise Science degree as well as a Masters in Business.

Bill Buckland

SALES ASSOCIATE

Originally from Clearwater, Bill lived many years in Tallahassee and recently moved to the area from Kansas City, KS. He has competed for many years in distance running from 5k to marathons. His main aim now is to stay healthy! Bill’s constant positive attitude and extended knowledge of all things running has made him a key addition to our team.

Lynne Virant

Physical Therapist and Personal trainer

Lynne Virant has worked in the health and fitness field for over 18 years as a personal trainer, coach and now a Doctor of Physical Therapy. She is also a Master Instructor for TRX, training instructors all over the country. Her mission is to educate, empower and transform people to move and feel better so they can live and play better!  Lynne loves the way running pushes her, and she empathizes with people who use running as a way to get in shape. However, she believes that runners may also need to get in shape to run thus minimizing injury risk and running longevity! In addition to directing the Training Program at Running Wild, Lynne is also the owner of The Movement Clinic, a Physical Therapy, Fitness, and Wellness Company in Pensacola.

Misty Guess

Chief of Internal operations

Graduate of Gulf Breeze High School, Misty entered the run scene by way of family intervention.  Her brother, Adam is the co-owner of Run Pensacola which has a mission of turning our local community on to the love of running.  Her first passion, however, is fishing and all mythical creatures of the sea.  She is one part runner and 3 parts mermaid.  She has a true love of people and is driven to help the guests at Running Wild reach their fitness goals.

 

Laura Aliss

Half Marathon Coach

Before becoming a stay-at-home mom for 3 kids, Laura was an elementary school teacher. She moved to Pensacola in 2000 and at 43 years young began her running journey! She started running to maintain a healthy weight, joined a Running Wild 5k class and was hooked!

Laura’s Thoughts: “I’m not a fast runner. I’m not an elite runner. I’m not a competitive athlete. I’m simply a woman who found her happy place putting miles on in a pair of running shoes surrounded by support and encouragement. Running is what gives me a sense of accomplishment. I would love for others to push themselves into that uncomfortable zone, embrace the suck and find how much more rich and accomplished their lives can become. I was intimidated by this sport by the Phat Girlz group in the beginning. I didn’t see myself as being a real athlete like these people are. But what I learned is “these people” are my people. They have the same fears and obstacles as I do. Here, they lay them out there for everyone else to help build them and watch them soar. I want to cheer on others as they amaze themselves at how high they can soar.”

Mary Mata

SALES ASSOCIATE

Mary is from Victoria, Texas and graduated with a business degree from Texas State University (formerly SWT). She and her husband own Creative Orthotic and Prosthetics which makes prosthetic limbs. She is a part time book keeper in her business and part time sales associate at Running Wild. She enjoys the fun environment at Running Wild and working with a team that helps people with their health. Mary enjoys weight training, spin classes and yoga.  She also sprinkles in a dash of running for fun!

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Michele Kuczynski

SALES ASSOCIATE AND BUYER

Michele is a 1998 graduate of Gulf Breeze High School and 2002 graduate of UWF in political science and theatre. She came to Running Wild with a rich experience in run retail. Her work experience includes working at Road Runner Sports in New Jersey and then Atlanta where she managed 3 stores and then opened a new one in Alpharetta, GA. She is also the mother of 3 young children and is grateful for running to keep her sane. While she loves running, her secret passion is ballet.  Michele loves the diversity of our running community that originates at Running Wild; so many different personalities that come together for a mutual passion.  And that is different for everybody.

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Leah Razzano

Sales Associate

Leah grew up in Warren AR. where she got her first glimpse into the world of running when she joined the track team at her Junior high school. Throughout her life, she has been involved in swimming, cycling, and basketball. She was a 4-year letterman and team captain of the basketball team her senior year at the University of Mississippi Colemiss and she is also a cancer survivor! Leah now calls Spanish Fort, Al home and when she isn't helping customers at running wild she is spending time with her girls.  

 

Justin Watson

SALES ASSOCIATE

Justin moved to Pensacola from Rogersville, AL for an assistant Cross Country coaching position at The University of West Florida.  Justin is completely immersed in the running scene, whether it is a personal desire to qualify for the Olympic Trials, aide another elite athlete to qualify or assist a beginner runner in achieving their own personal fitness goals.  Justin is constantly seeking the newest information to grow as a coach and as proficient runner while translating the information into an easy conversation for our guests.

 

 

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Jacob Banta

Creative Director and Sales Associate

Jacob grew up in Colorado Springs where he fell in love with trail and ultra running. He is a true lover of nature; if not running he is kite boarding, mountain biking or snowboarding. He loves learning life lessons from Mother Nature, his favorite teacher. Jacob's mission in life is to help others optimize their lives through healthy living and exposure to the Great Outdoors.

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Lari Franklin

Training Program Director

Lari Franklin grew up running starting with being a sprinter and hurdler in high school. She joined Phat Girlz around 5 years ago and began coaching the My First 5K program around 2 years ago. She says she really enjoys the group run culture at Running Wild because it keeps her motivated.  She and her husband were high school sweethearts, teen parents and now empty nesters just having celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary with their 3 amazing grown children.  What keeps this couple together besides names that rhyme?  Well, running of course!!!

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Olivia Allen

Zoom Virtual Coordinator & Sales Associate

Olivia came to the Running Wild family by way of one of our favorite former staff members, Cindy. Olivia graduated from the IB program at Pensacola High School where she was on the swim team and then from the University of Florida with a degree in anthropology and psychology. Her long term goal is to get her Ph.D in Counseling Psychology.  Influenced by her mom, and having just moved back to Pensacola, she has just picked up running again as our running community is one of the best ways to make new friends.  Her greatest adventure to date was an archaeological research dig in Ethiopia...but then she has yet to experience some of the fun ladies run groups that have formed through Phat Girlz!

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Ann Rush

Store Manager Extraordinaire

Ann is the rock to Running Wild in Fairhope. She came to that location and has raised it to a new level. Her energy and ability to connect with our guests to provide them a fantastic experience is above expectations. Besides being a key team member, she is a mom to three grown children and wife of 37 years to a very supportive husband while looking like she has just left her twenties. She loves the running community and loves running for the feeling of accomplishment she gets.  Besides the health benefits, she loves being outside to enjoy the beautiful scenery that God has given us!

 

 

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Eric Vinke

Sales Associate and Head of Security

Eric was born and raised in Pensacola, Florida. He is passionate about helping others become better, healthier versions of themselves. When Eric isn't at work he trains for classic physique bodybuilding shows while wearing his Brooks Ghosts and Vuori clothing!

Daniel Holzknecht

Sales Associate

Daniel is a young man who is very passionate about running...especially encouraging young people in the sport.  He is a graduate of Washington High School and student at UWF while volunteering to continue to help his underclassmen continue their cross country and track dreams.  He is a very determined individual but connects very well with every single person that comes through the door at Running Wild.  He is always upbeat and positive which you will find very refreshing.  He has a genuine interest in helping the guest achieve their goals.

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