About Us

Our Mission Statement

The Milwaukee Running Festival is a non-profit organization which will produce a world-class running event in Milwaukee that will be open to people of all ages and abilities. The event will be a source of civic pride for our citizens, a reflection of our diverse culture and history, a showcase for our landmarks and unique neighborhoods, a means to boost tourism and enhance the economic well-being of the greater Milwaukee area, and a vehicle for giving back to our community through a strong partnership with local charitable organizations. We will bring together governmental agencies, community organizations, neighborhood groups and businesses to create a high-quality and safe event.

Our Staff

Chris Ponteri, Executive Director

Chris is the Executive Director and Founder of the Milwaukee Running Festival. He also owns Longrun Athletics, LLC, which organizes several running events in the Milwaukee area, including the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon, which is the internationally-known marathon and half marathon held each January at the Pettit National Ice Center. The company also produces the Patrick Cudahy Race for the Bacon 5k Run/Walk, the Polar Bear Dash 5k, the Thrivent Turkey Trot, the Lake Michigan Marathon and several others.

Chris has extensive professional experience in both the banking and non-profit fields. He is married, has three sons, and lives in Wind Lake. He has a bachelor’s degree in Communication with a minor in Journalism from Marquette University and an MBA with a specialty in Finance, also from Marquette. He is also a competitive runner, having completed over 20 marathons including a PR of 2:59:58!


Tracey Gessner, Social and Marketing Coordinator

Tracey Gessner is the Social and Marketing Coordinator for the PNC Milwaukee Running Festival. She originally took up running in 2007 in hopes of finishing a 5K and has now completed nearly 30 marathons and ultramarathons (in addition to countless other races.) Before becoming a runner she was a dancer and holds a B.A. in dance from Columbia College Chicago. Movement is her favorite thing, in all its forms. She currently lives in Bay View with her husband and two daughters and loves music, food, beer, and sci-fi/fantasy television.


Steph Salvia, Community Relations Cheerleader

Steph is the Community Relations Cheerleader for the PNC Milwaukee Running Festival. She is also the Executive Director for Brady Street’s Business Improvement District. When Steph learned that the PNC Milwaukee Running Festival course would take the runners throughout a number of the Milwaukee neighborhoods, including Brady Street, she was all in!

Steph has over 15 years of experience in non-profits, public relations and outreach. She is married with 2 kids and a crazy cat. She received her bachelor’s degree from UW-Milwaukee and her Master’s from Mount Mary in Milwaukee. In her free time she enjoys CrossFit, yoga, and even running, although she is slower than a turtle stampeding through peanut butter. She, for one, is especially glad that there is finally a running event for every runner, the PNC Milwaukee Running Festival.


Kara Sonntag, Charity Program Coordinator and Volunteer Coordinator

Kara is the charity and volunteer coordinator for the Milwaukee Running Festival. She has been a runner since the 7th grade, however was not very good at it. (She was named cross country captain because she had spirit not fast legs). Over the last 5 years, she has run 13 marathons, 19 half marathons, countless 5K/10K races and 2 Ultra Ragnar Relays and was honored to run the 2015 Boston Marathon to her PR of 3:25:22. She has a B.S. in Dietetics from Mount Mary College. During the day she works as an Oncology Dietitian at a local Cancer Clinic and she moonlights as a mother of twin 8 year olds living in New Berlin.


Bill Schneider, Announcer and Starting Line Captain

Bill has been a runner his entire life. He ran locally at Brookfield East High School and in college at UW-Oshkosh on both the Track and Cross Country teams. Bill is an experienced marathon runner having completed over 50 full marathons and countless shorter races. He is the race director of the I Run Kids Marathon as well as co-race director of The Polar Bear Dash. He also assists in the organization of many other local races. Recently, Bill has gotten involved in announcing races including the Wisconsin Marathon, Icebreaker Indoor Marathon, and the Summerfest Rock n Sole Half and many more. If you don’t see Bill at a race announcing or running, there is a good chance he is coaching his daughters in Track or Cross Country.

Board of Directors

Frank DeGuire, President, Vice President and General Counsel, Meridian Industries, Inc.
Mary Flaws, Vice President, Owner, Running in the USA
Aaron Nodolf, Secretary, Attorney, Michael Best & Friedrich
Dana Schulz, Treasurer, Manager, US Bank
Jessica Hoepner, Owner, Performance Running Outfitters
Dannette Justus, Literacy Teacher, Siefert Elementary School
Tere Sackerson, Senior Vice President, PNC Financial Services
Matt Thull, Owner, ThunderDome Running

Advisory Board

Chad Antcliff, Vice President, Vision Event Management
Patrick Bieser, Board Member, Original Milwaukee Running Group
Tim Cigelske, Social Media Director, Marquette University
Nicole Hengels, Owner, Momentum of Milwaukee
Kristine Hinrichs
Andrea Hoeschen, Owner, Starting Line Athletics
Michael Hostad, Executive Director, Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE)
Sam Kassell, Owner, Four.One.Four Events, and Manager, American Cancer Society Charity Program
Jeff Mallach, Race Director, Ice Age 50
Sean Osborne, Owner, Silver Circle Sports Events
Jess Owens, Manager of Communications & Public Relations, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare
Jason Parry, Vice President of Development and Communications, Penfield Children's Center
Jan Seeley, Race Co-Director, Illinois Marathon; Publisher, Marathon & Beyond magazine
Jeremy Solomon, Chicago Athlete Magazine & Wisconsin Marathon
Megan Starshak, Co-Founder, Great Bowel Movement
Sun Torke, Founder, Keep Running MKE
Beth Weirick, CEO, Milwaukee Downtown
Mark & Noel Zickefoose, Owners, Fleet Feet Sports Brookfield

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