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!”





FLORIDA | Melissa Frazho




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




MARYLAND | Stephanie Dorah


MICHIGAN | Natalie Rowe

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.



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.



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



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.


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




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.




WISCONSIN | Noah Kaufman