Meet the 50-Staters

The following runners were the first from their state to register for the Kalamazoo Marathon, and are the winners or our 50-State Challenge. We’ve invited them to share a little about themselves . . . we’ll be adding info as we receive it, so check back and meet this year’s 50-staters.

ALABAMA | Mark Zaremba


ALASKA | Michael Golub

ARIZONA | Lora Eklund


ARKANSAS | Karen Knudsen

Karen is 53 years young and started running in May of 2014 just after turning 50. She never imagined herself as a runner but she went to their Big Dam Bridge park one day and before she knew it she had completed 5 non-stop miles. She went back the next day and did it again to her amazement. She looked up and asked God that if this is whet He had in mind she would need some help. Karen has been blessed to become a member of local RRCA clubs Hot Legs Run For Fun and Arkansas Ultra Runners Association. By time she makes it to the Kalamazoo Marathon she will be at lucky number 13 for Marathons which includes 2 Ultras. She has been fortunate to have run 20 Half Marathons along with numerous 5. 10 and 25k’s. She is also a Double Agent with Maniacs & Fanatics. “But the Best part of Running has been a Community and Family that I Love and couldn’t live without!”


Hi runners!  Mimi’s journey started in 2015 when she wanted to do something that would be physically and mentally challenging – she signed up for her first 5k. After finishing,  she was super excited and with the adrineline pumping she went ahead and signed up for the Star Wars Light Side Challenge  (half marathon and the 10K). Who knew that it would lead her to become a Half fanatic #15972, Marathon Maniac #13707 and a Double agent #2870.
She has done 31 half marathons and is continuing to strive to finish over 100 half marathons before turning 45 years old. At the moment she is working on the 50 marathon in 50 states challenge so Kalamazoo Marathon will be her 16th state since Wisconsin Marathon is her 15th state – she is doing the Mitten Challenge. Her first marathon was in January 2017- at the moment she has done 21 lifetime marathon. She is working on trying to finish the Abbott World Marathon Majors before turning 41years old – Chicago and NYC is done and next up is Berlin Marathon in September.
Her mantra is ‘Continue to challenge yourself to improve and enjoy every possible moment’

COLORADO | Bryan Baroffio


DELAWARE | Ed Dolphin 

Ed was never much of a runner, but he started running with his coworkers in Malvern, PA in 2012. Some of his coworkers were marathon and ultra-runners, so he slowly began to run more and more in an attempt to be able keep up with them. Ed has become a much better runner because of the running clubs that he has joined. He’s done 14 marathons on the East Coast and he is looking forward to running in Pure Michigan. He’s currently a seminarian with the Congregation of Holy Cross in Notre Dame, IN studying to become a Catholic priest.

FLORIDA | Melissa Frazho

GEORGIA | Tammy Welch



ILLINOIS | Keith Barnstein

Keith has been running for 4 years now, and he’s working towards his own 50 states goal of 50 states by age 50.  He’s currently run 15 marathons in 14 states, including Kalamazoo 2 years ago.  He ran it with his wife and they both had a great time.

INDIANA | Jen Savage

air-force-2014 Jen (Marathon Maniac #704) has run over 150 marathons and has finished the Kalamazoo marathon each year from 2011-2017. She will be bringing up the rear of the field (6:23 and 6:25 the past 2 years), but is always cheery and endlessly supportive of all who have the will to be out there..  In the real world, Jen is a social worker and a cat rescuer (  For fun, she plays flute and piccolo on the music team at her church and in the Circus City Festival Band in Peru, IN, and is a semi-retired professional high wire walker and unicyclist, among other things.  Jen can’t wait until May to meet everyone!


IOWA | Ann Hegstrom

Ann has been running about 5 or 6 years after a multi-year hiatus from high school track.  She started with the “gateway” 5K races, then started getting into more serious stuff, like 10Ks and half marathons (She has done 167 halves so far, but there will be several more over the fall and spring racing season). She just moved into the full marathon world last March at Little Rock, completed two more in June, and should complete 5 more before she arrives in Kalamazoo. Ann went to grad school at Western Michigan in the Blind Rehabilitation program. She really enjoyed running the Borgess Half twice – “I tell my friends that I get to actually SEE Kalamazoo when I run, rather than wearing blindfolds while training to be an orientation and mobility specialist” 😊 Ann can’t wait to have some Sweetwater’s Donuts when she gets into Kalamazoo.

KANSAS | Matthew Allin

KENTUCKY | Scott McLaughlin

The Kalamazoo Marathon will be Scott’s 8th marathon since his first in 2010. He chose the Kalamazoo Marathon because he prefers running in colder temperatures and Kalamazoo’s great craft beer. A cool day on May 6 will help him break the 4:00 mark and a personal record.



MARYLAND | John Merlo-Coyne


MICHIGAN | Natalie Rowe

Running didn’t exactly come naturally for Natalie, and really until a year-or-so ago, she hated running. But, like most runners, the bug got her too. Natalie just trained for her first marathon with Kalamazoo Area Runner & Gazelle Sports with their Summer Safari program following the Lydiard method. Her running group made her feel so inspired that she ran the Grand Rapids marathon on a whim, signed up for the Pistol Ultra in March and plans to Earn her Mittens running Wisconsin and Kalamazoo Marathon! She’s really excited to be a 50-Stater…and for the bacon station!

MINNESOTA | Sara Stoller

MISSISSIPPI | Nikki Simmons

Nikki has run 17 marathons in 12 states. She is slowly trying to get all 50 states. By the time of the Kalamazoo Marathon, she will have completed at least 3 more marathons & 1-2 more states. Nikki runs to stay healthy & because she loves to run. She is also hoping to earn her mittens by running both the Kenosha Marathon and Kalamazoo Marathon.

MISSOURI | Rachel Lofland


NEBRASKA | Jeff Bruntz

A running friend of Jeff’s from Kalamazoo told him about the 50-State Challenge and also the Bacon Station at mile 13 so he had to go for it.  He’s slowly been trying to collect all 50 states since 2004.  He has 18 states so far. He’s already collected Michigan but likes the state so much he thought he would try it again.


NEVADA | David Hawkins

David’s running career started early 2011 after years of inline speed skating (his first three half marathons were on skates). He ran his first half marathon on the strip in Las Vegas in Dec 2011, his first marathon the following year and his first ultra in Apr 2013.

During 2016 Daivd decided to run for the RocknRoll Marathon Series Hall of Fame by running at least 15 half or full marathons in their series within the calendar year. He ended the season with 18 of which 9 were fulls.

In Aug 2016 he was diagnosed with Kidney cancer, had his right kidney removed and ended up on chemotherapy for a year. He tried not to let this deter him and ran as many races as he could but his pace and training suffered significantly. Now that his treatment is over he’s working to get back to where he was but his pace is slower than before.

As of the beginning of 2018 David has completed 25 full marathons in 12 different states and 4 ultras. By race day he’ll have completed 7 more marathons including the Wisconsin Marathon the day before.

NEW JERSEY | Nancy Harris


NEW YORK | Gary Dibble

Gary is working on running a marathon in every state by the age of 50 (currently he’s 43). He started running in 2005 after a significant weight loss. He ran his first marathon in 2006. During his 3rd Marathon he saw someone wearing a 50 state marathon club shirt and curiosity hit. Then he found the Marathon Maniacs and now he’s completed 20 marathons, with 19 different states and 3 Ironmans in different states, bringing his total states completed as of September 2017 to 22!
Marathon Maniac 11214
Half Fanatic 15351
Double Agent 2592


NORTH DAKOTA | Aimee Hammon

OHIO | Mladen Simovic

Originally from Serbia, Europe and now having lived 4 years in the US. He’s a mechanical engineer who is addicted to adrenaline and endorphins. Mladen loves his job but loves his hobbies more. Jumping out of perfectly good airplanes and a Sunday morning 23 mile run is completely normal to him. He’s completed 135 jumps, over 100 minutes of free fall time, highest jump from 15,000 ft. He will never forget his first workout in April 2012. He wanted to die after half of a mile. 5 and half years later he has finished a lot of short distance races, 30 half marathons, and 8 marathons, last two marathons were within 9 days. Mladen’s personal best marathon time is 3:28:35. In April 2017 he started with triathlons. “The goal is to take a bath and ride a bicycle before running the marathon, I think that is called Ironman”. Some other goals he has are finishing at least one marathon in every state, skydiving in every state, finishing an Ironman with sub 3:30 marathon, cycling coast to coast and then running back and skydiving from 35,000 ft. He is trying to eat healthy except after long runs/rides/races when he eat anything food-wise.

OKLAHOMA | Marlon Onco

OREGON | Thomas Craven

Recently, Thomas was happy to survive his 255th race of marathon length or longer, the Volcanic 50 around Mt. Saint Helens, (in picture shown).  He has finished marathons in all 50 states and 7 continents. He enjoyed Kalamazoo marathon last time, but want to do it without doing Wisconsin the day before.

PENNSYLVANIA | Karen Elizabeth

Karen first got a glimpse of running while in grade school from her next-door neighbor who participated in several marathons and her family was aware of the neighbor’s training. After being involved in high school cross-country, she knew she preferred running the longer distances and continued running various 5Ks for many years. She most enjoys that, when participating in an event, a runner isn’t alone; a runner competes within themselves. Each runner can choose to push themselves that little bit extra and keep up with the crowd, or slow it up, and keep to a lesser pace.

Upon hearing her niece mention that her dad (Karen’s brother) was training for their local marathon (across the state’s border), Karen realized she was already partly trained and could easily also participate in the same marathon. She especially thought it would be fun because it would be in the same city where their mother grew up and where their parents met and married. That was in May 2012.

After completing this marathon, she decided to register for a few more – and began chipping away at different states that were within driving distance. Marathons #2 through #4 were completed the first weekend of March, April, and May 2013. After a three-year hiatus, Marathons #5 and #6 were at the beginning and end of April 2016.

Six are scheduled for 2018. When Karen earns her Mittens she’ll have completed #7 and #8. Mid-July and late-July will put her in the double digits. #11 will be mid-November and she’ll finish out 2018 with #12 the first weekend of December.

Karen has run in a different climate in almost every marathon: In extreme heat – where the course officials added additional water stations in the final few miles; in record-breaking cold conditions for the for the southern climate state; in pouring down rain that began hours before the marathon and only ended about a mile before her finish (she wore her glasses perched on the edge of her nose the entire time); and in a high wind advisory by the local weather service where leaves and other debris were slapping against participants who were focusing on not being pushed over by the high winds while continuing on with the course. The Earn Your Mittens marathons are forecasted to be 60 to 70 degrees and sunny; Karen will be wearing a hat and sunscreen to shield her fair skin.

She’s no particular end goal for completing a marathon in each of the 50 states, although she has figured out which marathon she plans to run in a few of her remaining states.



SOUTH DAKOTA | Steve Cross

TENNESSEE | Jennifer Bailey

TEXAS | Patty Bockenfeld


VERMONT | Kenzie Fuqua

Kenzie is a Kalamazoo native, grew up here and also attended my undergrad at Kalamazoo College. She ran competitively for K College, and ever since has been competing in trail races ranging from 5K’s to ultras. This will be her first road marathon, and she excited that it’ll be in her home town. Kenzie has lived in Vermont for the last four years now, and is getting her Master’s in Natural Resources from The University of Vermont.

VIRGINIA | Toby Worm

Toby ran kzoo for the first time last year and missed 3 hours by a minute so he feel like he needs to come back for redemption. Kalamazoo will always be his second home.  He grew up in Delton MI and graduated from WMU in 1997.  Since then he’s lived in TN and now VA.
Today is 44 years old but just started running seriously 2-3 years ago.  He’s only run 3 marathons but has 4 more on the schedule, including Boston which is 3 weeks before kalamazoo.

WASHINGTON | Jamicka Edwards

Jamicka’s passion for running started when she began training in Dec 2015 to run her very first Half Marathon in San Diego, CA in 2016. She was nervous and excited, but her initial plan was to check off the box that she completed a Half Marathon. Once Jamicka crossed the finish line she couldn’t stop thinking about when she’d do the next one. In 2016 she completed 6. Through running she’s challenged to shower 3 sons what achieving your goals, and never giving up looks like. It has also been about healing from a divorce and weight gain following the divorce. She has set mini goals and crushed every single one! 

She completed her first full marathon in Chicago on October 8,  2017. This journey has become more than just running for Jamicka. She became a race director this year and organized and hosted her very first 5K race in less than 2 months. She is JUST getting warmed up. 

Jamicka is looking forward to seeing where this running journey takes me and representing as a Half Fanatic as of November 2017- completing 12 Half Marathons and looking forward to the goal of being a Marathon Maniac/Double Agent. “Here’s to more miles on the pavement and fun times across the world!” She was NOT a fan of running when she was in the Army, but now as a Veteran she can’t imagine her life without running. When you put your Faith at work, ANYTHING is possible. Phil 4:13   Jamicka Edwards HF#15931  Some know me as the #FunRunnerGirl

WASHINGTON DC | Natalie Patterson

Natalie is a West Michigan native and graduated from Gull Lake High School in 2010 and Calvin College in 2014. She ran very briefly for Coach Portis and Coach Flynn her senior year of high school, and cross country and track at Calvin. This will be Natalie’s fourth Borgess run (She ran the half in 2011 which was her first 13.1, and the full twice). Most recently she finished third overall in the full while running to raise money for Girls on the Run of Greater Kalamazoo in 2014.
Natalie moved to the sunny southeast (North Carolina and Virginia) shortly after graduating from Calvin to start a career in urban planning and nonprofit development, and she currently works in affordable housing finance in Washington, DC where she runs with Pacers Elite – Georgetown Running Club and the Roanoke Endurance Team.
There are a number of reasons she wants to run the Kzoo 26.2 again. For one, it’s her hometown! She says that one of the best things about this race is that “as the city changes and grows, the race really highlights the great things that are happening there, and it makes me proud to be from Kalamazoo.” Second, the Borgess half was her first big race. That race and the support that she got from the spectators and the city as a whole convinced her to keep training and working to run farther and faster. Thirdly, her dad had a heart attack in 2012 and received care at Borgess. They truly saved her dad’s life, and she loves the way that this event mirrors their commitment to healthy living, and to the community they serve. And finally, she’d like to shoot for the course record (which as far as I know is 2:59:26?) on what she knows to be a tough course!

WEST VIRGINIA | Peter Kapeluck

Peter is 36 years old and originally from Ohio. He moved to West Virginia for his career Shortly after college. He started running in high school and continued running after. He just ran to stay fit. He didn’t get into races until his wife had run her first half marathon and encouraged him to try one. After his first half he thought why not try a full. Since then Peter has run 6 marathons with one more scheduled (Columbus, Ohio) before Kalamazoo, maybe two. He chose Kalamazoo after seeing an advertisement table at the Fort Wayne marathon. He saw the 50 State Challenge and took a chance and signed up. His goal is to qualify for Boston. He also wants to run a marathon in every State. Peter has 4 States done with Kalamazoo making my 5th. He hopes to have Hawaii completed during his 20 year wedding anniversary.

WISCONSIN | Noah Kaufman