These 22 running enthusiasts have been selected as our 2018 Asheville Marathon & Half Ambassadors. Get to know each of them, subscribe to their blogs and follow their Twitter pages to stay up to date on all their unique perspectives regarding running in the local community and preparing for the Asheville Marathon & Half at Biltmore Estate. You won’t want to miss out on their tips and resources!

Follow @AvlMarathon Ambassadors on Twitter with #AvlMA

2017 Asheville Marathon Ambassador Logo


Deanna Avery


I found the gift of running in April 2013 when I ran my very first mile, I haven’t stopped running since and in April 2015 I ran my first half marathon. I have participated in various 5K, 10K, 15K, Trail Run events and Half Marathons. I am now also a Run for God Instructor at FUMC Morganton and lead a couch to 5K program each year. I am a 5am runner who blogs about all of my adventures and this amazing running journey. I am a full time working mother of two beautiful teenage girls and am married to a wonderfully supportive husband. I am blessed with an amazing group of BRF’s (Best Running Friends) and have absolutely fallen in love with the running community! Runners are the nicest and most welcoming people I have ever met! It must be all those endorphins!!!

Deanne has decided to make 2018 the year she will complete her first marathon with us!! “This is just an incredibly beautiful, challenging and rewarding course. Asheville is nestled in the gorgeous NC Mountains and the Biltmore Estate is breathtaking.”


Hometown: Morganton, NC
Favorite Length: Half Marathon (I also love the 15k)
2017/18 Races Planned: Casting for Hope 5k Morganton, Biltmore Kiwanis 15k, A Touch of Grace 5k, Charlotte Firecracker 5k, Kirkwood 5k, AVL 10k Off Road Series, Detroit Free Press International Half Marathon, HOP Race Morganton, South of the Mountain Trail Run, Night of Light 5k Morganton, Hot Chocolate 15k Atlanta, Charlotte Super Bowl 4 Miler, and most importantly the Asheville Marathon @ Biltmore Estate


Hometown: Albany, NY
Races Completed: Over 70.
Farthest traveled for a race: Upstate NY to Fort Myers, Florida.
Ambassador Experience: Ragnar Relay Series.
Planned Races 16/17: Boilermaker 15k, Catskill 100k Relay, Ragnar Trail New England, Rock n Roll Montreal, Rock n Roll Brooklyn, Philadelphia Marathon, Hudson Mohawk Winter Series, Asheville Backyard to Vineyard Challenge





Ambassador Veteran!


Hannah Foust


I’ve been running consistently for about 5 years. I love to race! Something about a bib makes just me happy! I’ve completed a 50k, 4 marathons, and too many half marathons to count. I’m also a volunteer race director for the Knoxville Track Club and a figure skating coach. I’m excited to be returning as a race ambassador because I LOVE this race! It’s such a wonderful event and the most scenic race I’ve ever run. I’m a 2017 Backyard to Vineyard Challenge finisher!

RACE HIGHLIGHTS: “I recently ran the Knoxville Half Marathon… My friend Tony ran the full… On the way home, I saw Tony just passing mile 20. I knew this race would be challenging for him. I pulled over and ran back to meet him. We ran almost a mile together before the course split again. It was awesome to be able to find a friend and share that tough moment in a race (mile 20!).”


Hometown: Knoxville, TN
Miles ran every week (on average): 35-40
Favorite race length: 5k



Ambassador Veteran!

Elizabeth Hotaling

Elizabeth is enthusiastic about great races and thinks the Asheville Marathon & Half “is one of the best.” Find her promoting this destination race to the Greenville running and triathlon communities!

RACE HIGHLIGHTS: “2014 full – seeing the house, running through the gardens, running through the vineyard, getting my blanket at the end. 2015 half – seeing my friend see the house for the first time, cheering on the runners I met through the expo, flowers in the gardens already, the beautiful weather, sharing it with friends, and getting my blanket at the end.”


Hometown: Greenville, SC
Farthest traveled for a race: China! (it was a triathlon though) also Hawaii for a 15k, but that wasn’t the whole reason for the trip.


Blog: Tri-ingForChina
2015 AMA Feature


Ambassador Veteran!

Bilinda Kaufman




Very involved Bilinda is the Community Manager of GOTR Orlando and member of Black Girls Run! Orlando, We Run Orlando, Winter Garden Moms Run, and Fit moms Windermere. She has run every year of the Asheville Marathon & Half, and is a welcome addition to the AMA team.

RACE HIGHLIGHTS: “I’m sure it was my very first full with [the Asheville Marathon & Half] on the Biltmore Estate. There I was freezing, sweating, and smiling from ear to ear. I was finishing a race that was beautiful but tough, full of hills and a little snow. All my training had been in the humid heat of mostly flat Orlando and yet the scenery and supportive runners that surrounded me kept me going. Truly a powerful moment and suddenly made better by being wrapped in a warm blanket and getting a high five from Danny.”


Hometown: Orlando, FL
Favorite Race Length: Half is my favorite because it’s still fun and yet challenging.
Ambassador Experience: This is my second year as an AVL Ambassador and 5th year running it. I am all year long an ambassador of sorts for Girls on the Run and proudly serve as the GOTR Orlando Community Manager.



Ambassador Veteran!

Tom Mangan




Thomas is a founding member of Steel City Road Runners, Marathon Maniac, and Half Fanatic. His list of planned races makes one wonder… does he sleep?

RACE HIGHLIGHTS: “Seeing a blind runner on crutches running the Chicago Marathon. If you’re not inspired by that, you don’t have a pulse.”


Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Races completed: Since May 2011, something like 130 half marathons, 54 marathons, 11 – 50k, 1 – 40 miler, 2 – 50 milers, 1- 100k, 2 – 70 milers, 1 – 100 miler.
Farthest traveled for a race: ~2,700 miles. From Pittsburgh, PA, to Vancouver, BC. Twice.
Favorite race length: Half marathon, though there is something very appealing about the 70 milers.


2015 AMA Feature >


Ambassador Veteran!

Crystal Shirk



Crystal is a Certified Athletic trainer for Southeastern Sports Medicine. She has run in many races through Park Ridge Health and Southeastern Sports Medicine, and for her, running is a family affair, sharing a healthy lifestyle with fun activities.


RACE HIGHLIGHTS: “PR at Asheville Half Marathon. I was so proud of myself because I had just come off the Disney Princess Race 3 weeks prior and just wanted to PR from the year before. I knocked 9 minutes off my time!”


Hometown: Black Mountain, NC
Race Completed: 7 half marathons… bazillion 5ks.
Farthest traveled for a race: Disney.


Crystal’s Blog >


Ambassador Veteran!

Leslie Sloan




Leslie runs with Inheritance of Hope and raising funds with them and created a small running group of women who do long runs! “My running has come a long way since that first 15k. I love to run and it has given me a great platform to talk about and encourage a lot of the people in my life to do ALL kinds of things.”

RACE HIGHLIGHTS: “I love running [the Asheville Marathon & Half] races! They are beautiful! Simply put… you get to race on a private estate where the Vanderbilts lived… they had the same landscape architect [as Central Park]. I love running up the approach road to the house. The fact that you don’t get to see it until you are RIGHT THERE, is such a tease and really inspires you to get up that hill. Then, I love barreling down the hill through the gardens and past the Bass Pond. There is truly nothing like these races.”


Hometown: Fletcher, NC
Running Goals: My running goals for the year is to change it up. I want to run a triathlon, a trail race, a big city marathon and try to qualify for Boston and to run the Asheville Marathon (I’ve run the 1/2 twice).
Ambassador Experience: I’m an ambassador for Pearl Izumi. Also, I’ve been a charity runner for NYC Marathon 2x and for Marine Corps Marathon for Inheritance of Hope.
Races completed: 6 marathons and 6 or 7 half marathons.


Leslie’s Blog >


Ambassador Veteran!

Raegan Soloman

Raegan is a veteran Lead Coach and Sole Mate with Girls on the Run and helped plan the Haw Creek Elementary School race. She’s active in the Asheville running community, participating in many races ranging from 5ks to 1/2 marathons; usually running in at least one race a month, and sometimes more.

RACE HIGHLIGHTS: “The Biltmore is an amazing landmark to our city… my children are growing up in the backyard of the Biltmore. It was magical to run on the grounds and run while taking in the majestic views of the estate. I completed the race as a Sole Mate for Girls on the Run and raised scholarship money for local girls to be able to participate in the program that is so near and dear to my heart. That was such a fantastic bonus!”


Hometown: Fletcher, NC




Wendy Stiver

Running is how I explore the world. I started race traveling in 2011 and love that it has taken me to places I might not have otherwise visited. Every race is an adventure. Sometimes I have a great race and chase a PR, but more often, I meet amazing people and make lifelong friendships. So…my goal is to collect as many adventures and new friends as possible. (And break 2:15 in a half)

I’ve never been to Asheville. This race has been on my radar for a few years. I have  heard so many good things recently about the race and the city. I’m looking forward to exploring and supporting the local brewing economy.


Hometown: Ketchikan, AK
Races completed: 150. 53 half marathons and 6 fulls.
Farthest traveled for a race: Dayton-San Diego.



Beth Vo



I started “really” running about ten years ago when a family member challenged me to run the Disney Marathon. I couldn’t believe how much I loved it and I’ve been running ever since. Running is my therapy! I love to run with friends and with my husband, my best friend! 


This will be my fifth year participating in the Asheville Marathon and I am so honored to be an Ambassador for a race that I love and hope to run every year for a long, long time! It’s difficult to improve upon being held in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, but each year keeps getting better and better!


When I’m not in running shoes, I’m still running around chasing my three wonderful daughters and my countless awesome patients. I enjoy encouraging kids and families to get outside and be active.


Upcoming race this year that I’m really excited about: New York Marathon
Favorite running quote: “Running has given me the courage to start, the determination to keep trying, and the childlike spirit to have fun along the way. Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running.”   Julie Isphording




AMA Logo



I fell in love with running while recovering from major foot surgery a few years ago. I think it was because I couldn’t run that made me really want to start. I gave myself 10 months for my foot to fully heal, then went right into a series of half marathons traveling to St. Louis, Savannah and San Antonio. And it has not stopped since. My favorite race thus far has been in NYC, where I ran through Central Park and Times Square, ending the race setting a PR I have not been able to match since. And it was snowing the entire half marathon. This Florida girl was cold which is probably why I PR’ed – the quicker I ran the race, the sooner I could get inside and get warm.

I am also never afraid to walk. I do not consider myself a “runner” and spend a majority of my races walking. However, whether you walk or run there is no greater feeling than accomplishing the completion of a half marathon. However you get to that finish line it’s a victory that should be celebrated!!



Favorite Race Length: 5k
Ambassador Experience: I am on the #RocknBlog team for the RocknRoll Marathon Series, ambassador for the Publix Savannah Womens Half Marathon and the CGI New Jersey Perfect 10 Miler.




AMA Logo

I grew up and lived in Detroit until I was 14, when I moved to Maynard, MA.  I can’t remember not running.  A tomboy who adored her big brother, I ran to keep up with him.  Then I had to keep running; to get home before the streetlights came on (you did not want my mom on the porch having to call out my name), to get on base in our sandlot baseball games (I was more of bunter/base stealer  than a power hitter), to get to the ice cream truck (before the creamsicles ran out).

Baseball has been a constant love since I was about 5 years old.  (Note that Ft. Myers IS the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox.  And the Minnesota Twins)  We didn’t have too many organized sports for young women when I was in school.   (I was 13 when Kathrine Switzer was almost pulled out of the Boston Marathon by Jock Semple  because she was a woman, and women can’t/shouldn’t run marathons.)

While I love baseball, it gets harder and harder to find 17 other people to play with when you have work, family, community, etc.  For a while, I played tennis (and I was instructed that you had to run to be good) but eventually realized I could just “do” running on my own.  Being a frugal person, I didn’t invest in a pair of running shoes until I’d worn out my tennis Tretorns. 

I’m a breast cancer survivor.  I didn’t run a marathon until after cancer.  I wish I could say I had a brilliant epiphany, woke up one morning after my mastectomy, and said: “I shall run marathons to show you can conquer cancer!”  yeah, that’d be great, but it’d be false.  Probably somewhere in my psyche there is some connection.  I moved right after the diagnosis and treatment, from Minnesota to South Dakota, and started running with the Black Hills Runners Club.  (They took me to the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming to run; first time I ever ran 18 miles. )   There was a local October marathon folks talked about so I figured I’d try it.  After all, I’d run 18, what’s 8 more?  I started training for it and felt I was ready to run the distance in September, so found a lovely YMCA marathon just north in Bismarck, North Dakota.  I’ll always remember standing at the start, nervous, excited…..looked over at another lady who seemed experienced so I asked her for any last minute advice.  She smiled, reached over and tapped my watch.  “Don’t get too focused on that; she counseled, “just have a good time.”  I’ve never forgotten her and try always to do that in every race.

I will be 63 April 15 and I work for the Department of Revenue; there’s some karma there, don’t you think?   For 25 years, I was a legal service lawyer/public defender.  In 2011, I joined Teach For America and taught 1st grade in Mississippi before moving to Ft. Myers.


Races Completed: I’ve run 167 marathons and one 50K to date.
Miles ran every week (on average): 60
Biggest racing accomplishmentsMarathon Maniac #130, Titanium Level.  (Best Streak: 30 states in one year.) Ran a sub 4 hour marathon in every state and D.C.
Farthest traveled for a race: I’ve run a marathon in all 50 states, so Rapid City to Hawaii, probably, but Ft. Myers to Thunder Bay Canada seemed long.



Amy’s Blog >

Interested in becoming a 2018 Race Ambassador?

Deadline to submit an application is midnight on June 1, 2017. See the Ambassador Program Detail Page for more info. Click Here.