Earn Your Mittens (Kalamazoo Marathon) Challenge: A Brief History

The Earn Your Mittens Challenge encompasses running the Wisconsin Marathon on a Saturday, and the Kalamazoo Marathon the day after.

There is also a Half and Half Challenge, where you can run the Wisconsin Half Marathon or the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini Marathon (also known as the Indy Mini) on a Saturday and the Borgess Half Marathon (or the Kalamazoo Marathon) on a Sunday.

Earn Your Mittens (Kalamazoo Marathon) Challenge A Brief History

But if you’ve never run the Wisconsin Marathon or Kalamazoo Marathon before you may be wondering about the history of the events and what’s on offer during the marathons, well this article has got it all covered!

What Is The Wisconsin Marathon?

Also known as ‘the cheesiest marathon,’ runners flock to the Wisconsin Marathon from all over the US and indeed the world to take part!

The first Wisconsin Marathon took place in 2009, and from then on has been held on the first Saturday of May every year. The Wisconsin Marathon features a full marathon, a half-marathon, and a 5K. 

The Wisconsin Marathon has plenty to offer, such as beautiful, breathtaking views of Lake Michigan, and good access to downtown Kenosha.

This means that if you’re taking part in the marathon from further afield there are plenty of hotels to stay close to the event venue, as well as restaurants and shops to flesh out your stay and turn your marathon into a vacation.

After the preparation of a marathon and actually running it, you definitely need some pampering and TLC, after all!

The Wisconsin Marathon also has the All Cheese Corral, which is a starting point for any registered runner that is up for donning the dairy produce that Wisconsin is known for and prides itself on.

All you have to do is arrive on the morning of the race wearing some cheese-themed clothing! 

You also win a Big Cheese Medal at the finish line, and can celebrate your achievement at the Post Race Party featuring cheese, beer, and live music!

Kalamazoo Marathon Timeline

The Kalamazoo Marathon is part of the Earn Your Mittens challenge, so let’s take a closer look at the history of the race, starting in 1979.


Development Director John Daley-Borgess creates the run to promote health and fitness, and to prevent illness through exercise. 


The first Borgess Run for the Health of It race takes place, and attracts 800 runners.


After undergoing open-heart surgery six weeks earlier, James Miller – former president of the WMU – walks the one-mile fun run, alongside 2,000 other runners. 


Joan Benoit, a Boston Marathon winner and competitor of the 1984 Olympic Women’s marathon, competes in the women’s 10K.


British Olympian Nick Rose wins the 10K race in just under 30 minutes.


A 5K walk and a 15K run is added to the event.


The Run/Walk event draws over 6,000 participants to the event.


Mark Smith earns the first Ultimate Hoofer award by winning a 5K, 10K, and 15K that was established in 1985 for the winter of the race trifecta.

Earn Your Mittens (Kalamazoo Marathon) Challenge A Brief History (1)


WMU runner Kayla Skelly smashes the 15K record, clocking in an impressive time of 55:44.


Blaine Lam is appointed Race Director. The role is committed to sponsor, volunteer, participant and community excellence.


The judged racewalk is held for the first time with 166 participants.


The Borgess Run 15-year anniversary. The race is dedicated to the founder, John Daily, who sadly passed away earlier that month.


Team USA member Gary Morgan sets a new Borgess racewalk record of 20:36. Gary Morgan is also a notable Kalamazoo Marathon runner, winning the event 11 times in 12 years.


The National City Half Marathon is set up by Chris Crowell, owner of Gazelle Sports.


It’s 25 years of Kalamazoo! The Medical Mile is also rebranded to the Motivational Mile.


The Kalamazoo Marathon is officially born, and the weekend events take place on the first weekend in May henceforth.


Tent City grows to include food, live entertainment, sponsor tents, photo boards, and even live television commentary. Adult runners could also enjoy a ‘big finish’ beer for the first time after completing the marathon.


The 10K is reintroduced.


The marathon, half-marathon, 10k, 5K run, 5K walk, and the 1K Kids Fun Run has over 5,500 participants. The PNC Military Mile is also added to the marathon and half-marathon, and is a 1-mile stretch to pay respect to military veterans and to honor their services to their country.


It’s 40 years of Kalamazoo!


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, race events took place virtually.


The Ziegler Kalamazoo Marathon continues the legacy of the Borgess Run and continues to promote the values of ‘Driving A Healthier Community.’

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the Earn Your Mittens Challenge is a fun, exciting challenge to take on if you plan to run the Wisconsin Marathon, with a proud and varied history.

Richard Harris