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


Ambassador Veteran!

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


Julia Bips
 I just celebrated my second run-versary! I always hated running until right after college, when my now-husband signed us up for a local 5k in April 2015. After I got over being livid first at him and then at running in general, I became hooked! I ran my first half marathon on Thanksgiving Day 2015. 
I am a first-grade teacher and also a grad student at Clemson University, and running is my time to decompress. I have run one full marathon (Asheville!) and seven half marathons, as well as a bunch of 10ks and 5ks. 
– I’m training my coonhound to run shorter distances with me. It’s an ongoing process. 🙂 
– I started a running club this year at the school where I teach with the help of our PTO and an awesome colleague. We have about 55 runners, ages 6-11. They were so proud of themselves at their first race this year! 
– I’m from Dracut, MA originally. 
– Right now, I am training for Marine Corps Marathon 2017. Other races on my calendar are Asheville Spartan Super 2017, Peachtree Road Race 2017, Kiawah Marathon 2017, and OF COURSE Asheville Marathon and Half 2018! 
– Favorite races: The Asheville Marathon was my first full, and it was absolutely magical, from the snow to the beautiful course (and of course the wine)! I also run the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta every year with a bunch of friends from college. It’s like the running world’s biggest party!  




Blog: The Planning Fairy


Sue Caplan
I ran my first half in 2010 and it did not go well! I never wanted to run any distance longer than a 5k again. Until I heard about the Asheville half at the Biltmore. Deciding to run it changed my life. I wouldn’t be a distance runner if it weren’t for this race.
I’m currently in the middle of a series of half marathons called The Beast that is local to Southwest Virginia/East Tennessee. And I can’t wait to return to the Biltmore again in 2018 as a more experience runner and try for a much better finish time!


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


AMA Logo

I am currently training for my second ultra in August where I will be going for 36 miles. I also am stepping out of my comfort zone and doing a triathlon in July. I love running because it makes me feel like anything is possible. I started running to lose weight – 75 pounds, more 5ks than I can keep up with, 9 half marathons, 1 marathon and ultra (31 miles) later and I am still going. My hope is that when others see my running accomplishments that it inspires them to believe that they can achieve even more. Running isn’t just something I do, it’s a part of who I am.




Tori Cox

I started running in middle school on the track team and competed in high jump and long distance events. I continued running in high school on the cross country team and recreationally throughout college to stay in shape. It wasn’t until 2013 that I signed up for my first half marathon. It was a bucket list item and I only intended to run just one. I guess you could say I fell in love with running because I’ve completed 24 half marathons and three marathons, including two Dopey Challenges, since then. I’m officially a member of Half Fanatics and have been part of the Tone It Up community since 2011. 

In addition to running I play kickball and serve as social media co-chair on the Marketing & PR board for Junior League of Greensboro. I’m an East Carolina University graduate (GO PIRATES!) and I love my maltipoo Minnie. When I’m not running or working, I enjoy going to the beach, watching sports, and drinking wine. 


Hometown: Clearwater, FL
Current City: Greensboro, NC 
Upcoming 2017 Races: Race 13.1 Greenville & Charlotte, Run & Ride Carowinds, Chicago Marathon, Race to Margaritaville, Wine & Dine Half Marathon, Charlotte Half Marathon, Norfolk Harbor Half Marathon, and Kiawah Island Half Marathon 
What I am looking forward to most at Asheville Marathon: The scenic views and Biltmore wine 



BLOG: Run Barbie


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



AMA Logo

My name is Tracey, I live in Sanford, FL.  I am married to my high school sweetheart Don and we have 3 children, Kaylie 19, Christian 17 & Ryan 14.

I am a Breast cancer and Brain cancer survivor.  After my last brain surgery 2012 I started having seizures and was diagnosed with epilepsy. My doctor advised me if I could lose weight and eat healthier it may help reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.  I was in a wheelchair for a brief time and then a walker so I had to start walking really slow. At that time I weighed 297 lbs and it took me 20+ minutes to walk a mile.  My friend Barb bought me a membership to her running club and I started really slow.  Now today I am hooked! I have lost about 150 lbs and I love when I can go for a run!  By no means am I a fast runner, I only can do intervals, but I still get out there and Do what I can! There are some days that I can barely get out of bed never mind run because of medical issues that I can’t control but I keep trying!! I have continued to keep running and keep a pretty active race schedule!


Hometown: Sanford, FL
Ambassador experience: I was an ambassador for the Donna marathon in Jacksonville, FL and I am currently an ambassador for Soxy Feet, Girlsrunfast and skirt sports
2017/2018 Races planned: Team RWB 4 miler 7/1, Cops & Joggers 7/15, Masters of all Terrain 7/16, Oakmonte 5k 8/5, FL ROC moon 10 miler, Shenandoah half 9/2, Great Smokey half 9/9, Weekie wachie half 9/23, Sanford Riverwalk 10/7, Marine corps full marathon 10/22, Cocoa beach half 10/29, Spacecoast full marathon 11/26, Mt. Dora half 12/17, Flamingo 5k 1/1/18, Disney Dopey 1/4-1/7, Disney 5k 1/4/18, Disney 10k 1/5/18, Disney half 1/6/18, Disney full 1/7/18, Sharkbite half 1/14/18, Celebration half 1/28/18, Daytona beach challenge 2/4/18, Donna challenge 5k and 10k 2/10 & Half marathon 2/11, Gasparilla challenge 5k and 15k 2/24 & Half marathon 2/24, BDR challenge 3/3/18, Swamphouse half , Asheville marathon 3/17/18, Excalibur 3/18/18, Run the Bluegrass half 3/31/18, National womens half 4/29/18, Usa beach championship 5/6/18


Anna Kallas

I recently moved at the end of 2016 from Birmingham, AL, to Chattanooga, TN, with my husband and 2 dogs.  I am a freelance Court Reporter.

I have run 3 marathons and at least 20 half marathons since 2010.  I am not a competitive person.  I love running for the health and social benefits.  And I just want to have fun (as you can see from my picture)!  

My mom and I started running together.  We trained for our first 5k all the way up to our first marathon together.  She continues to be a huge inspiration to me as I continue in my own training.  

2018 Planned Races:  Mercedes 1/2 Marathon, Disney Princess Fairy Tale Challenge, Erlanger Chattanooga 1/2 Marathon, and Asheville Backyard to Backyard Challenge 



Bilinda Kaufman
To the left is my ambassador picture from when I ran the Backyard to Vineyard Challenge in 2016. That race was my first taste of running multiple long races in one weekend and I’m excited to come back in 2018 for another Backyard to Vineyard Challenge. I’m working on running a race in every state and as of this year, I’m officially more than halfway done! 
  • Hometown: Somerset, PA, have been living in North Carolina for 11 years
  • 2017/18 Races Planned: Ragnar Trail Carolinas (ultra team), Route 66 5k & Marathon, Backyard to Vineyard Challenge, Blue Ridge Double Marathon
  • States Run In: 28 (as of June 2017)
  • Longest Distance at one time: 47.8 miles – I got pulled off the course at mile 21 of the Blue Ridge Double Marathon earlier this year due to weather, but I’m registered to try the double again next year!

Blog: Meandering Echoes


Bilinda Kaufman

My running adventures actually started with the sport of cycling.  I loved cycling but wanted something more, so, about 7 years ago, I went on my first run in hopes of eventually competing in duathlons.  Although I could barely run a few blocks without stopping, I stuck with it and haven’t stopped since!  Over the past 7 years, I’ve competed in duathlons, half marathons, marathons, and most importantly, running introduced me to my true love, the sport of triathlon.  While I love stand-alone running races, there’s just something about going for a run after a bike ride that I really enjoy.  I’m currently training for my 4th Ironman, and once completed, my goal is to work on my half marathon and marathon times. 


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.



Anne Lazo

This will be my first year being Ambassador with Asheville Marathon. I am currently also an Ambassador for Crazy Compression socks. 

How I got into running: My Doctor told me one day to join a local run group. So I did.  I only would run anywhere from 1.5 to 2 miles, 3 times a week period! I never thought that I would ever sign up for a 5K, but I did, the feeling crossing the finish line was amazing, so I wanted more of a challenge so I signed up for a 10K, after that 10K, I of course wanted another challenge.  I ended up signing up for my first half marathon and I felt so nauseous at the start line because I didn’t think that I would be able to complete it. After I crossed that finish line at my first half marathon I had such a feeling of accomplishment,  and tears of joy just streamed down my face! I loved that feeling so much, and I was ready to sign up for more and so I did,  53 more 😳

My Asheville Half Marathon highlights: This has to be the most magical, and  beautiful race that I have ever experienced!  Not only was I mesmerized with the natural beauty of the course, but at mile seven it started to snow, and for this Florida girl that was definitely an amazing experience! 


Hometown: Winter Springs, Florida
Favorite distance for racing: Half Marathon,  because it not only challenges you, but you can also walk after 😊

Favorite color is: green

I also like to read my magazines backwards


Ambassador Veteran!

Tom Mangan

Tom is a founding member of Steel City Road Runners and is a member of Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics.  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 beginning running in 2011, over 150 half marathons, 58 marathons, and 30 ultras including 3 – 100 milers
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 100 milers.



2015 AMA Feature >


Rebecca Luhm

Ambassador Experience: This is my first years as an ambassador, but I recently represented the American Liver Foundation and raised money to run this year’s Boston Marathon ($6,000)!  In 2016, I was selected to march with the U.S. Delegation at the Opening Ceremonies of the NYC Marathon.

I started running distances half marathon and longer in 2009 and have not stopped since!  In 2015, I experienced serious illness (mono, strep, and bilateral ear infection), and that was a wake-up call for me to change several important aspects of my life.  I started taking vitamins faithfully, changed my eating habits to eat “cleaner”, started reading labels on food, and really became conscious of taking care of myself/my body.  My first race post-illness WAS the 2016 Asheville Marathon, which was a great experience for me as it was such a beautiful run (challenging weather conditions, yet still beautiful).  Between October 2015 and now, I have lost almost 30 lbs.  I’ve been working with a coach (as a hybrid athlete) since November 2016 and am in the best shape of my life so far!  I was able to do a lot of these races listed above through my last job as a Clinical Research Associate.  As part of that job, I was required to travel nationally on a weekly basis.  I was able to see and do a lot in the 4 years that I held this post and accumulated over half a million frequent flyer miles.  Most of my training up until 3 months ago occurred whilst on the road and in hotel gyms/CrossFits across the country.


Hometown: Hickory, NC
Races completed: 13 half marathons and 6 full marathons. 

I’ve run the following half marathons: Charity Chase in Hickory, NC (4x); Downhill at Dawn in Black Mountain, NC (4x); The Flying Pig Half Marathon in Cincinnati, OH (1x); The Diva Half Marathon in North Myrtle Beach (1x); The Mistletoe Half Marathon in Winston-Salem, NC (1x); The NC Half Marathon at Lowes Motor Speedway (1x); The RunLiveGive Half Marathon in Conover, NC (1x)

I’ve run the following marathons: Walt Disney World (2013); Charleston, SC (2014); Dallas, TX (2014 – formerly the White Rock Marathon); Asheville, NC (2016); NYC Marathon (2016); Boston Marathon (2017; charity runner)

Upcoming Races: Chicago Marathon (October 2017)

Goal: To run all of the World Major Marathons (Abbott) and run a marathon in all 50 states (in my lifetime)



AMA Logo

Lauren is an adopted Charm City resident and marathoner. She is a current Occupational Therapy student by day as well as a fit foodie. Besides running, she enjoys working out with November Project, practicing yoga, travelling, and exploring Baltimore . Lauren is the creator of Breathe Deeply and Smile where she discusses life, running, health & fitness, food, and Baltimore. 

Race Highlights: Running right past the Biltmore Estate and on the grounds during the 2016 half marathon was a memorable way to first see Biltmore on my first trip to Asheville. This race definitely has one of the most beautiful and scenic course I’ve run. The event organization, swag, and scenery make it an awesome event, even with some challenging hills along the course! 

Goals: Hopefully in April Lauren will check off her big goal of running the Boston Marathon. She would love to work on a new half marathon PR as well as do more trail running and eventually run her first 50K. 


Ambassador Veteran!

Crystal Shirk

Local runner entering her 3rd year as an ambassador.  After a year of unexpected setbacks, her running goals are to reach the same level of fitness she was at 1 year ago.  Crystal has run the Trifecta series for the last 2 years and plans to complete it this year as well!  She is attempting a half marathon in a new state at least once a year.  When she isn’t running, she is working as a certified athletic trainer for Pardee Sports Medicine in the community, keeping her dogs active, and chasing her 2 boys around. 


Hometown: Black Mountain, NC
Farthest traveled for a race: Disney.
Upcoming Races:  The Gateway 5k or 10k August 2017, Asheville Du October 2017, Soakupthesun half marathon Gulfport, Miss in December 2017, Disney Princess Glass Slipper Challenge and 5k Feb 2018, Asheville Half 2018


Crystal’s Blog >


My name is Kim Shomaker. This is my 1st year as an ambassador, and I’m so excited to be apart of the team! Last year was my 1st year running the Biltmore Half Marathon. I loved the course and knew I wanted to run it again!
I’ve been steady running and training since 2014 and my 1st half was in 2015. The Hokie Half Marathon in Blacksburg, VA.  That was when I 1st fell in love with long distance running!
I’ve went on to teaching a Y-run class at my local YMCA. Helping people train for a 5k. And also taught PiYo there for a little while.  I got into pacing and I’ve paced for 3 Half marathons so far.
I’ve recently got into trail running and looking forward to doing more trail races in 2018.

Races I have planned : Table Rock Ultra 30k, Asheville Hot Chocolate 10k, GHS Half Marathon, and the Black Mountain Monster


Hometown: Marion, NC
•Mother of 4 (ages 20, 18, 14 and 4)
•Lived in Iowa and did part of my nursing school there
•I’ve only flew twice, to Vegas & to Cancun


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



Ambassador Veteran!


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.



Hi! My name is Amanda “Mandy” Williams. I am married to Gregg and we have a son, Luke and 3 dogs, Ralphie, Roxy, and Ruby. I am a dietitian. Hobbies include reading, cooking and, of course, running! I have ran 41 half marathons, 5 full marathons, and 1 50k. My goals for 2017 were to finish the Backyard to Vineyard challenge and if I survived that, run a 50k. I accomplished both and am now ecstatic to be an AVL Ambassador! We live in Alabama but have loved Biltmore as a family vacation destination and is a favorite Thanksgiving tradition! I loved running the 2017 AVL and look forward to running it again in 2018 as an AVL Ambassador.