Meet Team Minding Your Mind for the 2024 Big Sur International Marathon

Minding Your Mind is honored to have been chosen as a Big Sur International Charity Partner for 2024. The Big Sur International Marathon was established in 1986 and today is managed by a 12-person Governance Board of the non-profit Big Sur Marathon Foundation. The Mission Statement of the Big Sur Marathon Foundation reads: The Big Sur Marathon Foundation creates beautiful running events that promote health and benefit our community.

Team Minding Your Mind  is made up of 8 individuals, each of whom has a person story of why the mission of Minding Your Mind connects with them and inspired them to run the Big Sur International Marathon. Collectively, Team Minding Your Mind will raise more than $24,000 for mental health education and suicide prevention programs throughout California. We are so grateful for their dedication to this cause and confidence in our programs.

There are some who are still actively fundraising; if you are considering making a donation to Minding Your Mind this year, please help these runners reach their goals.

Read more about the runner and the story behind their connection to our mission.

Sophia Medallon

I started running less than a year ago in 2023 after I continued to struggle with several life transitions and began neglecting myself. Looking for any kind of escape, I was relying on substances, unhealthy foods and coping mechanisms, chasing dopamine, and making very poor choices with the life I couldn’t value. I started walking around in my environment as a way to accept these changes, but my thoughts were often dark, somber, and I felt so trapped. One day, I broke off into a run. It was the closest thing I felt to being free in a long time. My heart is pumping hard and every time, I feel grateful to be alive.

For almost a year I worked on improving my health; physically, but especially mentally. And on April 28, I feel incredibly lucky to be given this opportunity to celebrate my journey at the Big Sur Marathon with team Minding Your Mind to help and support people like me.

Running, like life, is an incredible gift.


Donate to Sophia here

Lauren Schutz

Hi my name is Lauren Schutz and I am from the Philadelphia area. I am dedicating my run to Liv Juliana.  Over the last few years, Liv2bekind has been fortunate enough to partner with Minding Your Mind to help raise awareness and support others in their struggles. Minding Your Mind holds a special place in my heart for the access to resources it provides to those who need them and the endless work to help reduce the stigma of mental health conditions.

Liv, whom I considered family, may no longer be with us but her memory and strength never ceases to amaze me and how her struggles have helped to save others. One of the first vacations Liv and I ever took together was to California, and was some of our favorite memories together. The combination of all of these things made running in this marathon feel so right as well as a great way to start of my 27th year of life! I am fortunate enough to have the support of my family, friends, Liv’s family, and my running buddy brother-in-law joining me in California for race day to support the cause and help celebrate Liv’s memory.

Donate to Lauren here.

Matt Hill

Hi! My name is Matt & I am from the suburbs of Philadelphia. This past summer my sister in law, Lauren, was telling me she was thinking about applying to run in the Big Sur Marathon, representing Minding Your Mind, on her birthday this year. She shared she was nervous to run such a far distance on her own, especially as she was just starting her running journey. I was moved by her ambition for wanting to run 26.2 miles for such a great cause and in memory of her very close family friend, Liv Juliana. While I did not have the chance to meet Liv, I have heard so many stories about what a beautiful person she was & how many people she helped in this world and knew she would be very proud of Lauren for running for Minding Your Mind. I wanted to support Lauren in any way I could and decided to run along side with her, knowing we could motivate each other and raise awareness together. I am looking forward to us both completing our first full marathons together, while celebrating with family in Liv’s memory.

Donate to Matt here.

Maria, originally born in Belarus, Minsk, now calls Calgary, Alberta her home base. Her racing journey began in 2017 when she was training for her first marathon in British Columbia, Canada. Unfortunately, her plans were derailed by wildfires that rendered air quality dangerous for running. Maria sees the Big Sur International Marathon as her second chance at achieving this major goal.

Living in San Ramon, California, during her teenage years, Maria developed a deep love for the state, considering it the only place she’s ever truly felt at home. Since immigrating to Canada, Maria faced significant challenges with clinical depression and anxiety during her journey into adulthood. As a Black, bi-racial woman, access to proper mental health resources was limited, compounded by cultural stigma surrounding mental health within her immigrant family. Maria candidly shares that her struggle led her to spending years in a sedentary state, battling feelings of despair and loneliness. However, with the unwavering support of her family, friends, and an online community she built, Maria embraced practices like meditation, journaling, health-conscious diet and is now starting therapy. These tools became crucial in managing her mental health and turning the tide on her emotional well-being.

The Big Sur International Marathon holds profound significance for Maria, symbolizing a milestone in her transformative journey. In running for Team Minding Your Mind, Maria seeks to inspire others to believe that their mental health struggles do not make them any less deserving of a beautiful life.

Donate to Maria here.

Jeremy Gatzemeier

I live in Houston, Texas with my wife and two children. Houston is a great city, but it’s not known for its natural wonder, so I selected the most scenic marathon possible for my first attempt! I’m honored to fundraise for Minding Your Mind in the process. Thank you for supporting me in this endeavor.

I was inspired to run for Minding Your Mind because I grew up in rural Texas where mental health education and resources were neither widely available nor discussed. Many young people face similar circumstances as a result of geographic or cultural limitations. Helping young kids and adolescents learn the importance of identifying and understanding the emotions we all feel rests upon access to education and resources. Now that I have kids of my own, I want to lead by example. Over the years, I have spent a lot of time focusing on my physical wellbeing through weightlifting, running, and playing golf – lots of golf! However, I have only recently spent time exercising and prioritizing my mental health, which is just as important as our diet or physical wellbeing. I want to teach my children that true wellness requires a commitment to both physical and mental health, and I want to help empower others through access to education and resources. Everyone benefits from destigmatizing the pursuit of mental health improvement.

Donate to Jeremy here.

George Gatsios

I’m running the Big Sur Marathon as a testament that the challenge of 26.2 miles is inconsequential compared to the mental health challenges that so many of us struggle to voice on a daily basis.
As someone who has personally overcome battles with mental health, I also believe in the power of open conversations and the impact of community support. The prospect of running my first marathon for Minding Your Mind is not only a physical challenge I am eager to undertake, but also an opportunity to raise awareness and support for mental health.
I’ve always been a fanatic for all things fitness-related, but now tying a physical goal to a worthwhile cause has made each training run immeasurably more meaningful. I can’t wait to cross the finish line, knowing I’ve done so for a cause greater than myself.

Donate to George here.