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 | Bobbie Jo Nault
ARIZONA | Matt Heacock
ARKANSAS | Bryan Kinzer
Bryan completed a jet lagged marathon in Johannesburg, South Africa this past spring while he was living in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. Now, that he is back stateside hopefully this second one will go a bit smoother after being encouraged to run by one of his friends, who go to the University of Michigan. He is 23 now, but the picture next to this is from his high school track days. One of Brian’s friends went to a neighboring high school and photo-shopped his school’s uniform onto him and put the right-side photo of me running into his school’s yearbook. Brian figures Michigan is far enough away from Arkansas that no one will notice.
CALIFORNIA | Jared Matsunaga
CONNECTICUT | Chris Hoelck
Chris started running at age 18 because he wanted to lose weight (He made it through high school without doing anything remotely athletic). In the mid-1990s, Chris started running 5Ks and 10Ks, and several years later, in 1998, a friend coached a small group of us through our first half-marathon. After that, he figured a full marathon would be a good goal. That ended up misfiring due to an injury, but a year later, in 1999, he completed his first marathon. It happened organically, but my first 10 to 15 marathon included some destination races in states like Utah, Arizona, and Florida, so he found myself drawn to the 50-state goal. Knock on wood, Kalamazoo will give me Michigan, which will be state 48. Chris has Wyoming on tap for August, and provided that works out, he’ll be left with Hawaii for next January.
DELAWARE | Howard Keener
Howard is a Marathon Maniac and 50 Stater, currently with 28 states. MI will most Likely be #30 or #31. He lives in Wilmington, Delaware.
FLORIDA | Joseph Graham
HAWAII | Morgan Gerdel
Morgan has been a runner his entire life, from track races as a young kid to cross country in high school, and longer distances as an adult. He decided to run the Kalamazoo Marathon because it sounds like an interesting place to visit, a small town off the beaten path with a lot of fun activities- He’s excited to check out the Brewery Trail. As a Half Fanatic, he usually focus on running half marathons; He just experienced his very first overall half marathon finish at the Lake Mead Half Marathon on January 13. Morgan has run half marathons in California, Nevada, four of Hawaii’s islands and Hachijo Island, Japan- for 23 total finishes to date. The 50-State Challenge piqued by interest, so he thought he would give the marathon distance another try, and maybe even shoot for a Boston Qualifying time. He’s run the Maui Marathon twice, the Las Vegas Marathon twice, and the Honolulu Marathon once- this will be Morgan’s first marathon in the midwest. He’s hoping the relatively flat course and cooler temperatures will make for a fast time in Kalamazoo.
IDAHO | Madeleine Miller
ILLINOIS | Cindy Barta
Cindy is an active wife, mother, grandmother, and sister. She started running for her health. One doctor’s visit noted she was in the boarder-line diabetic range. But thru running, she is 30 lbs. lighter and her blood sugar is back to normal.
Cindy had a goal to run her first marathon before she turned 60 years old. Her first marathon was in 2012, at 59 years old. She now averages 2 marathons per year. The Kalamazoo Marathon will be #16. She joined a running group which is very organized and friendly. This gave her a sense of belonging with their support and encouragement.
Cindy chose this race because she loves the beauty of Michigan and it’s proximity to her home. Upon reading reviews, this marathon had the fun, scenic, community involvement, live music, and supportive sponsors & partners she was looking to join.
INDIANA | Jen Savage
Jen (Marathon Maniac #704) has run over 150 marathons and has finished the Kalamazoo marathon each year from 2011-2018. 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 (https://www.facebook.com/SavagesBeasts). 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
KANSAS | Matthew Allin
Matt is an avid runner but had never run in a marathon until the 2018
Kalamazoo Marathon. He chose it as the first because he lived in
Kalamazoo and used it as a reason to visit friends. He was able to
beat his stated goal by nearly 20 minutes in 2018. At the end of the
2018, he was sure he’d never run another marathon, but within days, he
was planning on being back in Kalamazoo in May. Hopefully the 2019
marathon will allow him to improve on that time, especially now that
he’ll be prepared for the hills.
KENTUCKY | B.J. Fuller
B.J. began running in 2013 when he ran his first 5K race. The thrill of running and crossing the finish line gave him the ultimate high (and still does today). One year later, he ran his first full marathon in Nashville, TN. He is a 50 State Runner and currently has 15 states so far, which he’s split between half and full marathons. He has completed 12 Full Marathons (Kalamazoo will be #13) and 33 Half Marathons (though that should be closer to 40 by the time Kalamazoo rolls around). He is a member of the Big Sandy Road Runners Club in Pikeville, KY and he is also race director for the Artists Collaborative Theatre (ACT) 10K/5K held each March in his hometown of Elkhorn City. B.J. currently works for a local bank as a loan Collector. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife, Rebecca, acting on stage at ACT, weightlifting and of course putting his feet to the pavement for a good run. He chose Kalamazoo for his Michigan race because of the good things and positive feedback he’s seen on social media. He can’t wait to hit the streets and check the great state of Michigan off his Marathon list!!!!
LOUISIANA | Shelley Ryan-Gray
MAINE | Jill Weybrant
MARYLAND | Valerie Lancaster
Valerie has been running since she was in college and ran her first marathon in 2006. She only got serious about running in all 50 states in 2013. She thought it was a great way to see the country and visit states she probably never would’ve gone to. Valerie chose Kalamazoo because of the location – the course looks like it has a lot of variety in the scenery – city, a university, and park areas. Also, the time of year is perfect for a marathon. She currently has run 41 races – including 2 ultras. By the time she runs Kalamazoo, she should have only 5 or 6 states left! She’s saving Hawaii for her 50th state. Honolulu was her mom’s first marathon and she is going to run it with Valerie as her final state.
MASSACHUSETTS | Sandee Landon
In 2007, Sandee joined the Highland City Striders running club. Soon after, a friend from HCS asked the group, “Who wants to run Chicago with me?” Of course, she lost her mind and replied, “I do!” October 2008, she ran her first marathon. “Haha! Me? A marathoner? Who would have thought!”
Since then Sandee has run 12 marathons, a 50k, and a half Ironman. She’s since joined the Marathon Manics (#7745) and she aspires to complete all 50 states.
As for why she chose Kalamazoo? Well…to complete a Michigan marathon AND to see her longtime BFF, Keri! “The things I have to do to visit her!”
MICHIGAN | Stephanie Allen
Stephanie began running in 2013 but was not avid in the sport until 2015 when she ran her first marathon which was the Kalamazoo Marathon. In 2016 she did her first Earn Your mittens challenge and the love for long distance and to do what most would consider crazy hit her. In 2017 Stephanie found out she was pregnant with her 4th child. She was already signed up for her first 50k and 6 fulls for the spring and her first 50 miler. Determined to show that you can do great things pregnant, she was able to complete all of her races including the 50 miler at 36 weeks pregnant and training on all road and no trail. 3 weeks after having her 4th child she ran her 13th marathon while exclusively breastfeeding. The ultra bug bit her and in 2018 she ran, 6 more marathons, 2 more 50ks, another 50 miler, and her 1st 100 miler 6 days after the Chicago marathon which was her 18th full. After only training on trails for 7 months, she started getting into mountain races. In February 2019 she ran the Louisville Lovin the Hills 50k and March she completed Georgia Death Race 74 miler in the mountains. The tougher the race the better. Stephanie’s goal with her running career is to become a well known Ultra runner and to prove women are very strong and can accomplish anything even with a busy schedule. Stephanie’s other passions are her 4 kids (10, 7, 5, 1), coaching Girls On The Run, coaching cheerleading, and being active in the community. The Kalamazoo Marathon has always held a special place in my heart. She has ran it every year since 2015 and even in 2017 she ran her 2nd Earn Your Mittens challenge 20 weeks pregnant with a shirt that announced that she was pregnant with a boy for her gender reveal. Even her son’s name is running related (Legend Stryder Allen). My favorite part about Kalamazoo has always been the hills and the crowd support. Even though she is done with road marathons and has moved her focus to tough Ultras and trails, The Kalamazoo Marathon is her favorite road race and she can’t wait to run it again this year.
MINNESOTA | Ashley Daniels
Ashley started running to prove people wrong. My doctors told her with how bad her asthma was, she’d never run a mile in her life. She proved them wrong by running a mile, then that mile turned into a 5k, then a full marathon. Since then, perseverance and overcoming the odds has always been what drives her; with the power of running, she’s overcome 5 of the six mental illnesses she was diagnosed with, have completed 5 full marathons and 6 half marathons, and is striving to Boston Qualify. With this marathon, Ashley will be seizure free for a YEAR, complete her sixth marathon, her first marathon as an assistant coach for Hamline University, her first marathon since overcoming a stress fracture in her foot, and representing Minnesota with Hamdog Piper pride.
MISSOURI | Aileen Murphy
Aileen is originally from Michigan and started running in junior high. She ran cross country at Kalamazoo College, so the Kalamazoo Marathon is a bit of a “homecoming” for her. She was never too sure about this whole “marathon” thing and still isn’t sure how she feels about them, but Kalamazoo will be #7 if all goes according to plan! Aileen’s “cross-training” consists of Ultimate (Frisbee) and as much contra dancing, tango, and waltzing that she has time for.
NEBRASKA | Michelle Leach
Running, writing and travel are three of Michelle’s biggest passions. The Kalamazoo Marathon checks two of those boxes. She has been running her whole life and marathons continue to keep Michelle motivated. She researched marathons in Michigan and Kalamazoo came across as one of the most fun. “I like fun marathons, so here I am.”
Michelle’s ultimate goal is to run a marathon in all 50 states. She’s not quite there yet. The Kalamazoo marathon will be her 28th spanning 15 different states. While she currently lives in Omaha, she is returning to the state of Michigan after a 12-year absence. In her previous life, Michelle worked as a former news reporter for the NBC affiliate in the Flint/Saginaw market.
NEW HAMPSHIRE |
NEW JERSEY | Allison Roth
Allison is running her second round of the 50 states and The Kalamazoo Marathon looked awesome! She’s already run 86 marathons, starting in 2009. By the time she gets to the Kalamazoo race she will be at #90, but she’s a back of the pack person) … “I like to think of it as “savoring the course.”” Her inner child is truly a sloth in a flash suit.
NEW MEXICO | Emily Lihte
Emily found her love for running 4 years ago when living in Marshall, MI. She ran her first race at the Cheetah Chase at Binder Park Zoo and she hasn’t stopped running or racing since. She has run countless 5k’s, 10K’s and two half marathons since then. The Kalamazoo marathon will be Emily’s first full marathon, she feels it very fitting to run her first marathon in the state where she fell in love with running. Emily currently lives back in her hometown of Albuquerque, NM with her husband, working as a physical therapist assistant. She will be running the marathon with her best friend Erika Hamlet who introduced her to running and has since run almost every race with Emily. They both plan on running a marathon in every state together, starting in Michigan.
NEW YORK | Kamal Jabbour
Kamal is a member of the 50 States Marathon Club for completing a marathon in all 50 States. He is also a Marathon Maniac. He has run 69 marathons so far – “God willing, Kalamazoo will be my 75th marathon.”
NORTH CAROLINA | Ariel Kanaby
NORTH DAKOTA |
OHIO | Chuck Engle
Chuck has run over 400 marathons (424 as of today’s date) with over 300 of them under 3 hours. He’s even won a marathon in all 50 states.
He looked into Kalamazoo as he heard it is in the spring and can be a cooler weather race with some rolling hills. His favorite type of course. He’s done several Michigan marathons but this will be his first Kalamazoo and he’s looking forward to adding it to his growing list of fun marathons completed.
OKLAHOMA | Marlon Onco
This is Marlon, he’s run 92 marathons since 2006, he loves the marathon distance. He’s twice qualified for Boston and ran it both times. His goal is to run 100 marathons, and as many states as he can, this will be his first time running in the great state of Michigan and he’s so excited, he can’t wait!
OREGON | Jeff Lewis
PENNSYLVANIA | Emily Erb
Emily has considered herself a runner for a little over 5 years and has grown to love longer distances. She’s run many 5k and 10k races, and has run two half marathons. This will be her first full marathon! Emily chose to run it because Kalamazoo looks beautiful and like a very fun area. She thinks that running is a community event and that it’s for everyone. The atmosphere at races is contagious and the running community is like no other. She’s very excited to be running this race in May!
RHODE ISLAND |
SOUTH CAROLINA | Christine Maybourne
SOUTH DAKOTA |
TENNESSEE | Megan Munsell
Megan Munsell was born and raised in Millington, Michigan – but “home” is Memphis, Tennessee. After a rough divorce, Megan turned to running and fitness and hasn’t looked back. Memphis has a great running community, and during the fall there are several local races she loves to do – including the St Jude Marathon weekend.
In December, 2017 Megan ran her first marathon (St Jude) in 6:08. She didn’t hit the wall and felt remarkably well after, attributing that to her overall fueling and pacing strategy and the cross-training she did at her local Crossfit box, Crossfit SOPO. This will be Megan’s 2nd or 3rd marathon, as she hasn’t yet decided if she will run the Little Rock marathon in March or not. She will be participating in the St Jude weekend, but will be running “only” a half.
When Megan isn’t working, Crossfitting, or running – she’s spending time with her husband, Michael, and her son, Aidan.
TEXAS | Ed Childress
Ed is a marathon maniac and the Regional Ambassador for both Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics / Austin TX.
He’s doing the Kalamazoo Marathon as part of the Mittens Challenge. He’s working on his second round of 50 states and needs Wisconsin.
He’s been running since middle school and has completed a marathon in all 50 states! He’s currently “chasing” the marathon Majors now (Boston – Done, Chicago – Done, Berlin & New York this year, London 2019)
When he’s not traveling for a run, he spends time at home with my 2 labs and 2 kittens.
UTAH | Laura Strate-Madsen
Laura us from Park City, UT. She’s run approximately 100 marathons over the last 12 years, but never one in Michigan. With her graduation for her Masters of Public Administration degree right around the corner, she thought there’s no better gift than a 26 mile run in Kalamazoo! She can’t wait to spend her first school-free weekend at the start line with all of the participants.
VERMONT | John Lent
John has been running marathons for 33 years and has completed 183 marathons & ultras. John runs marathons on all 7 continents, 14 countries, completed all 13 Canadian Provinces & Territories and have completed the 50 States twice. The Kalamazoo Marathon will be my third in Michigan and 23 State on my third circuit of the States. Runners do like goals & statistics! He’s also excited to be entering a new age bracket (65-69) just 3 days before this marathon. John loves to meet new people along the way, offer encouragement and tell stories about his travels now that he’s officially an old guy. Looking forward to seeing you all soon!
VIRGINIA | Carole Royal
Carole has been trying to get the Kalamazoo marathon on her schedule for a while and 2019 worked. She is planning on doing the Earn your Mittens. Her husband is doing the halves.
Since she has all the close states completed, she has been looking for ones that she could get several done in one weekend and Kalamazoo fit.
Carole has completed 20 marathons, several halves. She did the Bear Lake trifecta out in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming in 2017 and she is looking forward to another back to back.
Most recent marathon was Boston this past April. Hoping for a little better weather in May.
WASHINGTON | John Colvard
John has been focused on Ironman activities the past 6 years completing 14 events from 2013 to 2018 including qualification for the Kona Ironman World Championship through the Legacy program. After selection and completion of the Kona Ironman last year, John returned to a prior interest of completing the 50 States Marathons. The Mittens Challenge piqued his interests in this race along with the nice perks as the 1st Washington participant. This will be his 3rd time of a back to back day marathons racecation. John is a Marathons Maniacs double agent and hopes to get to the Ruthenium level (5 star) with the Mittens Challenge plus the Starved Rock Country Marathon the following weekend. These races along with Ironman Louisville in October will make 33 states completed.
WASHINGTON DC | Nicholas Armstrong
Nick began running in 2016, with the goal of running his first half marathon on his 27th birthday. Since then he’s ran two marathons and handful of other half marathons and races. Nick is originally from Saline, Michigan, but has called the District of Columbia home for the past 10 years. He’s excited to run his second marathon in his home state, and represent the District in Kalamazoo!
WEST VIRGINIA | Donald Peal
WISCONSIN | Noah Kaufman