Meet the Coaches

Our Coaching Staff

Coach Dan Blankenship has been coaching for over twenty years and is the overall Head Coach for our training programs. He ran track in high school and college – is a USA Track & Field Certified Level I and Level 2 Endurance Coach (currently a candidate for Level 3 which is the highest coaching certification in USATF) and a Certified Personal Trainer. Has lead several large running groups & been active in the running community for over 20 years.  Dan has trained thousands of runners from 5k through marathons.  An Executive at Oracle, he has a B.S. degree in Accounting, holds several professional certifications including a CPA, and attended graduate school at both Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech…but we won’t hold that against him.


Gray Gurkin “Coach Rocker” – Gray brings his Rock-N-Roll vibe of fun, excitement and grit to the team.   He started running marathons in 2008 and is up to 15 and counting.  He can be found coaching runners as well as participating in the CORE FITNESS program that Race Team RVA offers.   The goal of Coach Rocker is to make running part of your lifestyle while enjoying the company of fellow runners along the way.   Plus, occasionally you might find him playing his guitar and singing around town – Rock On Coach Rocker!


Coach Shawn Nghiem has been marathon coaching for 12 years.  His running history is fairly straightforward.  He was moderately overweight in college and realized he needed to change if he wanted to have a full and joyful life.   He needed an outlet to manage his weight and so he took up running and has been running ever since.  He loves running but more importantly, loves coaching.  It’s the ultimate way to give back.  Meeting new people, running together and just having fun with this sport became his passion.  It really doesn’t get much better for him.  He is on a personal journey to run a marathon in all 50 states and so far has 18 under his belt.  Like many runners, Coach Shawn loves to eat. LOVES to eat.  He can eat a ton.  He knows all the best burger, pizza and donut places in RVA.  Catch him on a run and ask him about it!


Coach Ram is our happy Coach and we sometimes refer to him a “Ramiman”.  You will rarely ever seen him down.  He loves sharing his passion for running with others.  He has run over 12 marathons, most of them over the past several years.  He started running in 2012, but in 2014 completed his goal of running a full marathon – since then he has been running 3 to 4 marathons a year.  In June, 2017 he will complete his first international marathon in Rio.  When Coach Ram is not running, you can find him helping customers in his restaurant, Malabar Indian Cuisine in the far West End of Richmond.   You might even find a few of our team members there too!


SandyCoach Sandy Lawson received her BS degree in Health Sciences with concentration in School Health from JMU and started her career as a Health & P.E. teacher and track coach. She currently works at the John Rolfe YMCA as a certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor (certified in TRX, PiYo, CXWorx, Yoga, and Cycle) and at Re-Kinect as a medical exercise specialist. Throughout her 18 years in the health & fitness industry, she remains an avid runner. Sandy coaches all levels and has coached for the YMCA 10K training teams, including serving as head coach for the Tuckahoe YMCA, and for Commonwealth Sports Medicine’s half/full marathon training team. She has raced in 8 marathons and numerous half marathons, 10Ks, 5Ks, triathlons, and obstacle mud races. Her proudest accomplishment is raising 2 awesome kids, Anna & Trevor, with husband, Phil.


Coach Jim Morris is from update NY but moved to Richmond 28 years ago. He ran his first marathon 25 years ago after being challenged by some friends.  Since then he has run 14 marathons, including Boston twice, and about the same number of half marathons.   He received his MBA from VCU and has worked in Finance at Anthem for the last 28 years.   Jim and his wife Patty enjoy travelling (usually in the fall) which can make training for fall races difficult at times.  Although from NY, he has southern charm and personality…..guess we rubbed off him…


Coach Artie Strunk started running shorter races while attending Roanoke College.  After graduating, his dad convinced him to sign up for a half marathon and since then, he’s been hooked!   Artie’s favorite distances are the 10k and half marathon, but he has also completed two marathons.   Artie is a pharmacist at St. Mary’s Hospital.  When he’s not running, Coach Artie enjoy spending time with his wife and two young boys.   Artie is a pharmacist at St. Mary’s Hospital.


DanCookCoach Dan Cook is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, graduating from VCU in 2012, and works for Progress Physical Therapy.  He specializes in orthopedic manual therapy and is trained in Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN).  Dr. Cook enjoys running and has completed several marathons and obstacle races. Other activities consist of road and mountain biking, rock climbing, disc golf, and cooking (of course …it’s in his name)!  We call him Dr. Dan (or Coach Cook) so he is not confused with Coach Dan.


PhilCoach Phil Lawson adopted a healthy lifestyle and began running in his late-20’s.  Since then Phil has completed 8 full marathons, several half marathons, and many more 5Ks, 10Ks and a Tough Mudder.  However, he still considers himself a recovering couch potato and can empathize with new runners and those who struggle to continue to keep pounding the pavement.  He refuses to let age be a factor in his speed and has PRed his 10K and 5K times since turning 40.  Phil hopes to PR his marathon this fall and eventually qualify for Boston.  Phil and Coach Sandy both share their love of running with their 2 kids, Anna and Trevor.   Phil, also know as Pastor Phil, has degrees in music and divinity and currently serves on the staff at Gayton Baptist Church in Short Pump.  He also has a wonderful singing voice so don’t be surprised if he breaks out in song on one of his runs!

Viqs_NY_MarathonCoach Viquar (pronounced “V-car”) Shaikh started running in 2011 with 5K and 10K runs.   He did his first half marathon in 2012 and in 2013 completed his first full marathon.  Coach Viquar got the running bug and has been running marathons ever since.  In 2016 he began coaching others to run marathons, wanting to share his experiences.    He has completed 7 marathons and enjoys coaching athletes across the finish line.   Have struggled through a plethora of injuries related to running and some stupidity along the way, he has a lot of stories to share.


Coach Lanie LaTard is a graduate of University of Virginia (where she first developed her love for running) and is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, graduating from VCU in 2016.   She is currently employed by Tidewater Physical Therapy, working out of the West End office where she sees patients, many of which are runners.  She has competed in multiple races from 5k to full marathons.  Lanie has been a running coach since 2014 and has many years of experience as a swim coach as well.   A true athlete that brings the passion and spirit to each run  – oh yeah, and she is competitive too.


Coach AnnCoach Ann has been with Race Team RVA for 3 years as the run/walker coach for the half marathoners.  She has run 4 half marathons and numerous 10K and 5Ks.   She started run/walking after recovering from a broken foot that she incurred while running a 10k (which she did finish we note).    Ann feels that run/walk is a great way for beginning half marathoners to achieve the distance and can help runners ease back into running after an injury.     Ann leads our Monday evening speed workouts.   She is an Architect by day, specializing in school designs, and she enjoys coaching in her spare time.  She’s our energizer bunny, packing a lot of energy!

Coach Sherry took up running later in life after her daughter was diagnosed with cancer in 2009.  First a way to raise money for cancer research, the sport quickly became ‘therapy’ and saw her through some tough years.  Since then she has raced 7 full marathons, 3 triathlons and many other races from 5K to half marathon distances.  In 2015 she started her own business WellPower where she coaches small and corporate groups on overall health and wellness.  Sherry is a certified RRCA Distance Running Coach, an ACE Certified Personal Trainer/Group Fitness Instructor and a Certified Yoga Teacher.  In her free time Sherry can be found spending time with her husband and three kids, camping, reading or testing out new vegan recipes in the kitchen.  Visit her website


hanging with zuriCoach Caitlin Hodge is the Health Educator for the Chickahominy Health District. She has a Master degree in Public Health, BS in Community Health Education and Nutrition, and is a certified Group Fitness Instructor. Caitlin was the Captain of her Cross County and Track teams at Ithaca College in upstate New York. She has run in several half marathons, Ragnar Relays, and full marathons. Her new favorite thing is being a Mom. She’s excited to help fellow runners achieve their goals!


Made with Square InstaPicCoach Jean Wood has been running since 2014. She has completed two marathons, three half marathons, and tons of local 5ks. Her passion for running was fueled by the friendships she developed when logging hundreds of miles while training for her first marathon.  She participated in her first half marathon while training for the full marathon.  When she isn’t running, she can be found teaching 8th graders in Powhatan County.  She loves being a coach and teaching others about our sport of running!


Other coaches not profiled above that work with our training programs include:

  • Jackie Morgan, Coach
  • Cyndi Blankenship, Coach
  • Gil Escobar, Coach
  • Beau LeTard, Coach
  • Ann Belanger, Coach
  • Kathleen Lautzenheiser, Coach
  • Cinzia Rolling, Coach
  • Cathleen Burrows, Coach

Fitness Instructors:

Paul Caminiti, CEO of Team Adrenaline
Grandison Burnside, Founder and Coach for TRIGirl Training

Head Chief Researcher:

D. S. Blaise Williams III, Ph.D., MPT is the Director of the VCU RUN LAB. Dr. Williams specializes in three-dimensional biomechanics as it relates to injury and recovery from running and landing injuries. Dr. Williams has spent the last 17 years studying runners and how running athletes move and get injured. His research is aimed at understanding and enhancing running mechanics as it relates to injury and performance. Clinically, Dr. Williams enjoys working with runners and running athletes at all skill levels.