40th anniversary - 40 faces of the cleveland marathon

40 faces of the race

The 2017 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is the 40th Anniversary of the race which began in Cleveland in 1978. To celebrate 40 years, we've chosen 40 individuals who have been part of the race as a participant, sponsor, volunteer or event manager for at least one year. Each individual represents so many other participants that continue to challenge themselves and support the race. Beginning the week of August 8, 2016 and counting down for 40 weeks until race week 2017, we will feature one of the "40 Faces" per week through our social media channels and highlight 4 profiles per month through email. Please keep in mind, it is difficult to choose only 40 total, there are hundreds if not thousands more we would love to feature but wanted to show our diversity through the following individuals. We hope you enjoy their stories!

Each individual answered the questions, "Why do you love the Cleveland Marathon and what is your favorite Cleveland Experience"?

August 2016

Pablo Vigil

"I won this event in '80,'81 and '88.....But, I can honestly say that the best victories were the great people that I met as a result of my participation, Jack/Bernie Staph and family, John Tope, Michael Jordan, Mayor George Voinovih, whom presented me with the key to the city after my 2nd victory.......and not to mention the ROCK N ROLL HALL OF FAME LATER ON.

It was also great seeing all the positive changes of Cleveland Marathon, along with the City of Cleveland.To have been a tiny participant in this historical metamorphosis was a real honor."


Pablo Vigil


rachel hoffman - runner

Rachel Hoffman is a runner from Beverly Hills, MI- living in Kalamazoo, MI.

"I have run 6 full marathons and 10 half marathons. I ran my first half marathon in May 2012- later that same day, my dad (my number one fan) died very suddenly of a pulmonary embolism. Heartbroken, I turned to running as a means of therapy and made it my goal to run a full marathon that fall in Detroit. Running teaches me how important it is to keep going, no matter what. It has taught me that I am braver and stronger than I ever thought I was. I currently lead summer and winter marathon training teams here in Kalamazoo and I love to have FUN!!! I spread positivity and happiness.

Why do I love the Cleveland Marathon and what is my favorite experience?

I did the Cleveland Marathon this year for the first time and ran the full 26.2. I learned so much about myself and about the kindness of others during this experience that there wasn't even a doubt in my mind when signup opened for 2017.

My late father was from Cleveland and is buried there. This year marked my first trip back since his 2012 funeral. I was so thrilled to run past the stadiums of his favorite teams and imagine his smile at my enjoyment. The weather presented me with many challenges, but I learned that I am TOUGH, I am STRONG, I am more than hail and wind and snow and I will never quit. It was the first race ever that I have seriously considered a DNF. By mile 12, I was chilled to the bone, my hands were white, and the pacer I wanted to stay with was far ahead. I was crying. It was very hard to stay positive, and I am a veteran marathon runner. On the lakeshore, a wonderful woman who was there watching her sister actually took the Nike gloves off of her hands and have them to me, as I was in obvious distress. That gesture- that singular act of kindness to a complete stranger- turned my attitude around. I got my positive attitude back and I started smiling and encouraging everyone around me, waving at every officer and shouting "good job" to every runner.

I fell in line with Peter and Rachel, two people I had never met before but who laughed, chatted, and encouraged me to the finish. I taught Rachel about using positive words (she was a first timer) and Peter and I spoke about biology and neuroscience. The skies opened, the sun came out, and we made it to the finish!!!! I will never ever forget how much I earned that medal. It brings tears to my eyes even typing this. My dad is so, so proud of me and I truly gutted that out. I am so proud to #runCLE !!!!!


Rachel Hoffman 1

Rachel Hoffman 2


marvin solganik - legacy runner

Introducing the 3rd face of the 40 Faces of the Cleveland Marathon, Marvin Solganik! Marvin is one of our legacy runners as well as a long-time friend of Executive Director, Jack Staph. For 25 years, Marvin worked with Mr. Staph at Revco where the two would use their lunch breaks to get in their daily runs. For work, Marvin traveled the world and made sure to run wherever he landed including Italy, France, Jamaica, Mexico and Israel to name a few. “It’s easy to throw your running shoes in your suitcase - no excuses”, he joked.

Marvin has been running since he was in his 20’s and continues to run today. As a child, he was overweight and struggled with his self-image, then made the decision to start working out, watch his diet & keep active. Marvin’s running started a journey for fitness, not only for himself, but for his entire family. His wife, Judy and 3 children, Randy, Janet & Robert, all have competed in one of the Cleveland Marathon races.

What does he love about the Cleveland Marathon?
“I’ve met so many great people from all over the world including running legends in the early Cleveland Marathon days. Plus, the race is very well organized, the volunteers are terrific & it's one of the best races and I’ve been to many different cities”, he stated.

Marvin’s favorite Cleveland experience was in 2012 when Marvin planned on running the 10k. At the start of the race, Marvin was excited to see his friends and family up on the start stand as he approached the start mat. While friends were waving to him to stay back - it wasn’t time, Marvin thought they were waving and cheering for him and joyfully started the race, only he started the Half Marathon instead of the 10k. “I ran the half marathon and stayed on course - by accident - quite an accomplishment!




Marvin Solganik (1)


Delrico McDonald - student and we run this city participant

"My favorite part about the Rite Aid Marathon is the feeling of accomplishment as I cross the finish line. I started my running career with the We Run This City youth marathon program 6 years ago. While participation in WRTC I have ran 3 distances; the 1.2, 10k, and half marathon. I ran the last 1.2 miles of the Cleveland Marathon for 4 years, it was something to start off with. Then I progressed to the 10k, it was challenging but inspired me to then run the half marathon. Running the Half, was a new experience for me. I like participating in the Cleveland Marathon and WRTC because you have people cheering for you at the finish line, people motivating you throughout the course, and meeting new runners. For this upcoming year, I will train for the full marathon because it will be a new challenge and enjoy the longer distances. My love is running"

Delrico McDonald





September 2016

alissa kolarik

Alissa Kolarik began running in 2015 because of a rough year and a 30th birthday approaching. She thought running races would be a good way to celebrate a milestone birthday. Little did she know, life had a different path for her....

Alissa's first half marathon was in May of '15 where she kept a great pace until mile 12.5 - she felt a sharp pain in her hip but kept going because she just thought she pulled something & still somehow managed to finish in 1:58:18! Her husband took her to urgent care after that race where they gave the news that her hip was broken. She had surgery the following week to have a compression screw inserted. She would have pulled out of the race but she says "who thinks their hip is broken"?! Alissa was weight bearing after the surgery but wasn't allowed to run for 2 months. Even when she started running again, she could only manage 1-2 miles without ending up in pain and having to stop. She pushed through agonizing pains & stressful days but worked her way up to participate in a 10K in December of "15! After that race, she decided to do as many races as she could in '16 to celebrate her 30th birthday :) She says, "It has been a fun year and I am so glad I was able to get through an injury and continue something I love so much, RUN"!

Her favorite Cleveland Marathon experience was finishing the '16 race. It was her 2nd half marathon since her injury and her best time ever! "Seeing that clock and knowing how well I did, despite the weather, despite my past, despite everything - that was the best feeling in the world. It was my first race as a 30 year old and my proudest moment this year"!

Alissa Kolarik


casey smith

For most of his life, Casey has been extremely overweight. During college, he found himself at his highest weight of 312 pounds and wearing a size 42x32. During his senior year, before graduation, he decided he needed a lifestyle change and began a low-carb diet and started walking. Before he knew it, his walking led to running and in the first 60 days, he lost a total of 53 pounds!! The longer he did this diet and continued running, his life got better and was an overall happier individual.

In 2010, Casey ran his first 5K with a time of 34:51. Since then, he has continued to run and has completed 2 half marathons already this year! 2016 was his first Cleveland Marathon :) He says "What an experience that was"! For about 2 & 1/2 hours he endured rain, snow, sleet, & hail all followed by 70 degree sunshine after the race was complete. "It was truly an experience I will never forget", Casey says. He is obsessed with the city of Cleveland and is proud to say that he has already booked his room at the new Hilton Downtown and on the first day of open registration, he signed up for the 2017 Cleveland Marathon!

Casey is a big supporter of Cleveland and his favorite part of the run was just running through the streets of downtown and being able to see the awesome skyline (between the sleet and snow). He truly believes that this low-carb lifestyle, along with running, has saved his life and made him a better person. He finally feels like he is a part of a great group of people and for the first time in his life, he's on a "team" and not the kid on the bench the entire game


Casey Smith


David rathman - volunteer

BIO - "I have been an avid runner racing in a number of different events ranging from 5K to marathons. 3 years ago, I volunteered for the Cleveland Marathon weekend to give back from the races I ran. I volunteered for the 10K race on Saturday and stuck around to help with the kids' race. It was a rainy day as it tends to be the Saturday before the big race, but very fun as everyone quickly bonded with each other. I met many of the crew members from Cleveland Marathon & by the end of the day, I had asked Joan Freese for her contact information. I intended to become more involved in the coming years with all the hard work and fun.

The following year, I helped with the races again on Saturday and worked the gear check on Sunday. I was a bit nervous as I didn't know what to expect. In all the races I have participated in, I had not used the gear check so this was definitely foreign to me. I mentally prepared myself for thousands of bags holding racers' personal belongings. It was very challenging, yet rewarding. It gives you a great feeling to help the participants, handing the bag over to them, congratulating them on their accomplishment & chatting with them for a bit before you relive the high again with the next person walking up to gear check.

This past year, I helped with all the above and added the expo to the mix. With the setup at the expo helping participants signup, change races, pickup their bags and shirts, it provided a new view on what added work it takes to put on this event. The race weekend is over in a flash, but it takes so many hours over the months with many discussions and meetings. A person would normally think that once a race is complete and successful, one would simply just need to hit repeat each year and have it done in a flash. I started volunteering for the Cleveland Marathon weekend as I felt it was my duty to give back to the other racers. Year after year, I come back not to just help fellow racers but to help out the people who stress over the preparations and details hashed out throughout the many months leading up to the race.

I urge other runners and walkers to volunteer for any races to give back and to open their lives into the world on the other side of the registration table, including family and friends who have seen their loved ones participate in the races. I believe it will be an experience and feeling you won't soon forget."

David Rathman



skylar jones

Skylar started running in April of 2015 (yes - just a year and a half ago) and ran her first 5k, after that she knew she loved running! Within 11 months of running, she ran her first marathon. Her love of long distance running continued when she signed up for Pittsburgh, then 2 weeks later ran Cleveland as a "Birthday Marathon" since her birthday was just a few days after race day! Running Cleveland qualified her into the "Marathon Maniac" club by completing 2 marathons in 16 days. Cleveland marathon was a fun day for her as she had no time-goal since she had run a marathon 2 weeks before, but ended up finishing 8 seconds faster than Pittsburgh!

Her favorite Cleveland Experience - " At this year's event, my friend and I found it quite humorous that it was hailing, snowing, raining, thundering, and a very windy day for May 15. The volunteers and crowd support were awesome, especially considering the conditions that day. Although the weather was not ideal, runners were not complaining, and doing what they love, RUN! I loved it so much that I signed up for the full marathon for 2017! I ran my first trail 50k in June (4 weeks after Cleveland) and I only signed up spontaneously 4 days before. I love long distance running, and my dog does as well. When running trails, or if it is a cool day out, my dog Rooney will join me for 10-12 miles. She enjoys every second and those that come for the run enjoy her company as well. I love the running community, and all the camaraderie that comes with it!"

 Skylar Jones



 October 2016

debbie walker

Introducing the 9th Face of the 40 Faces of the Cleveland Marathon, Debbie Walker!

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness month we wanted to feature her during the first week of the month! Debbie began running a few years ago and is a breast cancer survivor. She knew she had to lead a healthier lifestyle so she decided to take up running. She started off slow, just doing a few 5Ks and eventually did a half marathon!

Within the past year she completed several 5Ks, 10Ks and the Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon! :) Debbie participated in the challenge series this year and although the weather was horrible, she was amazed by the volunteers and crowds that waited to cheer everyone on! She will be doing her 1st FULL MARATHON this month and is already registered for our 2017 event and is excited for the challenge!

Debbie Walker



anne audain

Introducing the 10th Face of the 40 Faces of the Cleveland Marathon, Anne Audain - one of our former 10K winners!

Anne first arrived in Cleveland in 1982 to run in a 5 mile race that was celebrating the re-opening of the Playhouse Square with the route running through the Flats! She came back to Cleveland in May that year to run our race and went on to win her first of seven 10K victories! Anne says, "People used to question me all the time - "Why on earth would you want to go to Cleveland?" Through these many years I have watched Cleveland become this beautiful city that we just saw on display at the RNC convention."

That first year she ran our race, she got to meet Executive Director, Jack Staph and his family that she now considers special friends to this day. She has watched his kids and now grand-kids grow up. Anne says "Racing in Cleveland has been a huge part of my life with wonderful memories!"

 Anne Audain


bill robb

Introducing the 11th Face of the 40 Faces of the Cleveland Marathon, Bill Robb!

Bill has participated in the Cleveland Marathon a total of 26 times and is also known as "pacer Bill" from the Cleveland Marathon Pace Team :) Out of those 26, he has run 21 marathons, 3 half marathons, and 2 10K's. His first race with us was the 1982 marathon which he ran as a high school senior in a time of 3:49:37. He came back in 1983 and ran a 3:04:39. His best Cleveland Marathon time was in 1984 when he ran a 2:58:16 and has a total of 15 Cleveland marathons run between the times of 2:58 and 3:20!

Bill has been a member of our pace team since 2010. He says, "Pacing at Cleveland is a great way to give back to the sport and it's a great feeling when you can help someone achieve their goal. This by far would be my favorite experience running Cleveland. I started running back in 1979. We didn't have pace teams to help you set your goals. If you really think about it; what I did in 1982, 1983, and 1984, these time drops from year to year, were really a great achievement". Those 3 marathons were Bill's 2nd, 3rd, and 4th marathons that he had ever run and he now has a total of 44 marathons under his belt!

"The reason why I love the Cleveland Marathon is it's great to be able to participate in a world class event in your own backyard", he says.

 Bill Robb


rachel nitzsche

Introducing the 12th face of the 40 Faces of the Cleveland Marathon, Rachel Nitzsche!

Rachel is a 29 year old teacher in the Berea City School District and you may have seen her on some our promotions as we love this race picture of her :) She has been running for about 3 years now and started running with fourth graders at her school. She started out running 5k's and increased little by little, day by day and month by month. This past year she ran her first marathon with us and just like many other runners, she says, "Boy was it a challenge, gotta love Cleveland weather"! She recently ran her second full in October.. you go girl!

Rachel says "I LOVE running in Cleveland because of the volunteers and spectators!! They truly make the race more fun and get you so pumped up; they keep you going!! I LOVE the signs that people create and I'm all about the swag! I run for the medals ;) For the 40th anniversary I will have run every race that has been offered! 5k, 8k, 10k, half, and full! And...I LOVE IT!

 Rachel Nitzsche


Introducing the 13th face of the 40 Faces of the Cleveland Marathon, Gideon Oswitch! He is an exceptional runner having raced in 474 total races (yes - you read that right - 474!) including 3 Boston Marathon's, too many 5K's to count and many other distances. Gideon has participated in 20 consecutive Cleveland Marathon's with this past year being his 20th #mvp

Gideon says "For me, Cleveland Marathon is the official kick off for spring & definitely helps motivate me to train through the winter’s dreariness. Driving into downtown on race morning, knowing I am going to be racing through a usual busy metropolis, with the city all lit up in early darkness is a magical feeling. My first CLE race was in 1997 and this was my first ‘Big Stage’ race with thousands of runners, festival atmosphere, loud music, and intense race day anxiousness - I have never forgotten that feeling."

His favorite Cleveland Experience is a tough one to choose from as things like personal best times, top 100 finishes, family cheering him on & driving back home post race so many times on 77 and 480 in a very enthusiastic mood are high on the list. But, the photo here is his favorite experience and here is why. He says "This photo from 1998 is myself and 2nd place 10K finisher, Simon Chemoiywo, of Kenya! I don’t recall how it happened, but minutes after finishing, I was next to Simon in the post race area. As we began talking, Simon was very soft spoken, polite & friendly, but what totally shocked me was how inquisitive he was about my race - asking how I felt, if the heat bothered me, my pacing, etc. Here’s one of the world’s fastest runners who just finished 2nd in a national level 10K well under 30 minutes and he is interested in talking to a 33 year old amateur runner who struggled to keep a 6:35/mile pace! This conversation just shows how 2 runners growing up a world apart were united through racing. I never saw Simon again at another race but this moment in Cleveland was memorable to me."

 Gideon 1.jpg

Gideon 2.jpg




john tope

John is our Elite Athlete Coordinator and has been involved with elite athletes on a national level since the 80's. He started at the Cleveland Marathon as the Elite Hospitality Coordinator and then went on to his current role previously stated.

Talking about his favorite Cleveland Expereince, he says "My favorite moment was watching Joseph Kimani set the world record for 10K from the press truck". Thanks for all you do, John!

John Tope




rudy murn

Introducing the 15th face of the 40 Faces of the Cleveland Marathon & one of our legacy runners, Rudy Murn!

About Rudy: "Cleveland Marathon has always been the best race to run the last 39 years for me. Going downtown on Sunday, race day morning, got my adrenaline going! Seeing all the runners preparing for their race was motivating & the intensity of the crowd was overwhelming. In 1978, I ran the 10k on a dare from my best friend who was a long distance runner. The farthest I ran before that day was a mile once when I was 18. I was 30 years old and ran in my basketball shoes and finished without stopping. That is when I got the running bug and never looked back. After almost 40 years of running, the knees are finally starting to bother me and slowing me down. I enjoy running fast or slow, it does not matter the pace you run at but that you are doing it  

The most memorable day was when I ran my first marathon at the age of 50 in 1998. My goals were to run with out stopping and try to break the 4 hour barrier. The first 22 miles were easy until I hit the wall and went from 8:17 pace per to over 9 minutes per mile. I did not stop and actually broke 4 hours (3:46) and missed Boston by 1 minute. It was a great feeling to say I finished the Cleveland Marathon and the accomplishment!

I am thankful for being a Legacy Runner and part of the Cleveland Marathon. I will always promote this race and the hard work that Jack Staph and his crew go thru every year to make it more successful."

 Rudy Murn1



Rebecca Stewart


Introducing the 16th face of the 40 Faces of the Cleveland Marathon, Rebecca Stewart!


Rebecca is a veterinarian pharmacy technician by day, and a runner on her off-time. When she was younger, she hated running. Then one day, she needed a change, hit the pavement... and has never looked back! She has run 7 half marathons, with her first being the Cleveland Marathon in 2013. Three of those seven have been with the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. Her 7th was this past year in the crazy weather but she survived! The Cleveland Marathon is where her passion started. Before our event, she hadn't even participated in a race before. No 5k or 10k - she just went big!


Her favorite Cleveland Experience was her first Cleveland Marathon in 2013 where she forgot to register and had not even trained. But told herself if she got to the expo and there were still openings, she was going to go out and have fun. She ran her first 13.1 and finished strong, and she never looked back. 

Rebecca says "I was amazed with Cleveland. My hometown never looked so beautiful, the streets were filled and the energy was strong" She will be returning this year to run the full marathon for the first time, and says she cannot wait!

Rebecca Stewart.jpg



Douglass Paroff

Introducing the 17th face of the 40 Faces of the Cleveland Marathon, Douglas Paroff! 

Doug ran his first 5k 6 years ago because of a 9 year old little girl. She was a friend of his daughter that lost her battle to a glioma brain tumor. That 5k was a huge challenge as he hardly finished & then could hardly walk. He started thinking and realized that this little girl never quit & kept trying.. so he had to do the same! He and the race director from his first 5k soon became friends and she named him Assistant Race Director. He then met the McNamara’s from Prayers from Maria Children’s Glioma Cancer Foundation and became a Sunflower Strider, running as a fundraiser for research for childhood cancer which led him to his 1st marathon!

3 years ago, he ran Cleveland Marathon as his 1st marathon which gave him the ultimate "runner's high"... then came his 1st 50k trail race. Doug has now ran 7 marathons, 5 ultra marathons, 4 half marathons and a handful of 5k-10 mile races!

"I love the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon because it has led me down a road that has opened many doors for me. I have met incredible people who have become very close friends, mentors, and life coaches. These people range from just the average runner like me, to world class and Olympians! This whole lifestyle has helped change me from a 225 pound couch potato, to a 185 pound hard working, fun loving and goal driven person!"

Doug Paroff.jpg



Courteney & Dan Boyle

Introducing the 18th face(s) of the 40 Faces of the Cleveland Marathon, Courteney & Dan Boyle! An amazing father/daughter story, written by Dan...

To say that my 16-year-old daughter, Courteney, has overcome enormous obstacles to participate in the Cleveland Marathon is an understatement! Courteney is on complete IV life-support nutrition. But, she’s been given the opportunity to participate in her first Cleveland Half-Marathon next May. (She was set to take part this past May - she and I did the 5K - but the weather kept her home while I ran it solo.) Courteney has participated in over 2 dozen races during the last 4 years, from 5k’s to half-marathons. And, what makes this even more incredible is the fact that she does not walk or talk, as she has severe medical needs. But she sure is joyful and going so strong! She even became the first person pushed in a wheelchair in the Disney Princess Glass Slipper Challenge this past February! It was our participation in the Rite Aid 10K in May of 2015 that sparked our interest in running farther and because of that event, we have!!!

In between her/our first 10K with Rite Aid and breaking barriers with Disney at the Glass Slipper Challenge, Courteney raised money through running to help a girl (very similar to her –but living in pure poverty in El Salvador – we know her personally) with her medical needs. It garnered so much attention that it was featured on the news in many states and was online with Sports Illustrated and Headline News, and was in publications like Cleveland Magazine. In all, she raised $12,000 for Rina!

Now, we’ve created the non-profit Team Boyle Foundation so that Courteney can raise money by running for those that are affected by disability or medical challenges or for those who help to support those causes. It is our desire and goal that between the Glass Slipper Challenge in February and the Cleveland Marathon half in May (and any other 5K/10K we do anytime in between) that we can again raise more money. This time, we want to help pay for the special needs (called Challenger Baseball) State baseball tournament that will come to Cleveland in July. NEO Challenger is responsible for the costs to bring the rest of the state here. And, at a cost of almost $60,000, Courteney and I hope to put a large dent in it!! I am blessed to be able to push Courteney in her wheelchair in every event; but, I really believe she’s pushing me!

Courteney and Dan.jpg



Richard Strain

Introducing the 19th face of the 40 Faces of the Cleveland Marathon, Richard Strain!

Richard is the cardiac arrest survivor from our 2013 event and he and his wife have a very special connection with the Cleveland Marathon. Richard's wife Milisa says "It's more than a race for us; if it wasn't for the Cleveland Marathon team which includes, runners, volunteers, medical teams and spectators, Richard wouldn't be here".

The first responder was Rebecca Lewis, a runner. She started CPR on Richard and they have become really great friends. Richard and Milisa met Rebecca a year later after our 2014 event and they say "She can't get rid of us now :)". Rebecca was even at their wedding!

It is stories like these that make us appreciate the time we have with our friends and family - especially during the holiday season. Picture: Richard and his wife, Milisa on left & Richard with his first responder, Rebecca on right.

 Richard Strain



Chelsea Kardos

Introducing the 20th face of the 40 Faces of the Cleveland Marathon, Chelsea Kardos!

"While you can't beat the running conditions in Los Angeles, California, I'm still an Ohioan at heart. Coincidentally, the person who I owe most of my career to is the same person who signed me up for my first 5K when I was 16. I remember being so nervous because she was an experienced runner and I hadn't ran further than a mile or two, but I ended up placing first in my age group and the rest is history. Nearly 10 years, 7 half marathons, and 2 marathons (soon to be 3) later, running has become a huge part of my morning ritual all thanks to my high school TV Productions teacher.

A year from today one of the most influential women in my life was diagnosed with lung cancer and she recently passed away in July. More than ever, I've been able to turn to running as form of mental and emotional release.

I can say with confidence that while I've never ran the Cleveland Marathon, this is going to be one for the books. Cleveland is where I'm from. Cleveland is where I found my passion to run. And Cleveland is where all the women in my life, who I feel so much gratitude for, are.

This 26..2 is for them."

Chelsea Kardos


Larry Dearlove

Introducing the 21st face of the 40 Faces of the Cleveland Marathon, Larry Dearlove!

Larry has been a marathoner for eight years now. He runs marathons to raise funds and awareness for the non-profit organization Ratanak International whose purpose is to help victims of sexual exploitation in Cambodia. Larry picks a marathon each year to visit a city his family has never been to and help raise more money for the organization. He has helped raise $113,000 so far!

In 2013, Larry missed out on qualifying for Boston Marathon by just 10 seconds, later realizing that missing that qualification may have saved his life. He wanted to still have a spring marathon in the books that year so he chose to venture to Cleveland and run the full marathon at our event that year. This was also the year Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry & Gina DeJesus were found here in Cleveland just a few weeks before the Cleveland Marathon - what a whirlwind of events to witness.

Larry says, "Crossing Lorain and West 35th, I was very emotional thinking about my reason for running and the fact that Cleveland had recently been able to rescue these girls. Thinking of my reason for running kept me going in spite of running in my hottest marathon. Cleveland always will have a special place in mine and my family's hearts... Cleveland Rocks"!

Larry Dearlove.jpg


Ron Ross

Introducing the 22nd face of the 40 Faces of the Cleveland Marathon, Ron Ross!

Ron is a retired Police Sergeant from Medina, OH. He served on active duty in the US Army prior to becoming a policeman and has ran the Cleveland Marathon 31 times! His 1st race with us was in 1983 which got him a PR of 2:37! Ron was then deployed to Europe and returned home in early 1987, ran the Cleveland Marathon that year and hasn't missed our event since.

For many years, Ron worked a Saturday night shift starting at 9 PM and ending Sunday morning at 7 AM. He would leave the Police Department a little early to drive into Cleveland on race day and run the marathon... talk about loyalty :) This is the usual for Ron as he has been running for 44 years, dating back to 1972. He ran cross country and track at North Olmsted HS, ran cross country and was on the marathon team at West Point & has run in many marathons and ultra marathons. Ron has under his belt 21 finishes at the Mohican Trail 100, 22 finishes at the Columbus Marathon, 20 finishes at the Towpath Marathon, every Flying Pig Marathon, every Akron Marathon and almost 400 other races with varying distances!

Cleveland is Ron's hometown as he was born in University Hospital and grew up in North Olmsted. Running Cleveland Marathon gives him "home course" advantage where he feels more at ease, more empowered, and definitely more proud running where he grew up. He has seen this race evolve from the Revco days and the start by CSU, to our race today, which starts and finishes in the heart of Downtown & includes some iconic communities & landmarks along the course.

Ron says "My favorite experience at the race is always the weather, you just never know what race day will bring and you just have to be strong mentally to overcome & understand that Cleveland weather in May can be a free for all. In 31 years of running the Cleveland Marathon, I have run in all kinds of weather and have never been afraid of what race day will bring. CLE represents a tough spirit, which is the same spirit that built our city from being a steel manufacturing powerhouse of yesteryear to a medical and cultural city we have today." He currently serves on the Medina Board of Education & coaches a running club for 3rd through 5th graders in Medina. Ron says "I do see the future of our sport in these kids and I am very thankful I can help them be the next Cleveland Marathon superstars!"

Ron Ross.jpg


Sarah Majkrzak

Sarah has called the Cleveland area home for all of her 36 years. Her first race was the Cleveland Marathon 5K in 2011 and this past year she completed her first half marathon when she participated in our 8K/Half Marathon Challenge Series (pause for applause)! She will be running her VERY FIRST FULL MARATHON at our 2017 event celebrating our 40th anniversary! She will be bumping it up a notch by participating in the 8K/Full Challenge!

Like many other runners she has been sidelined a few times due to injuries and a car accident, but so far they have been no match for her Cleveland-bred determination and tenacity. The Cleveland Marathon series is her kick-off race every year and every new distance she attempts is done at the Cleveland Marathon. (We might be tearing up over here)

Sarah says "I love the Cleveland Marathon because it’s not just a race but an experience. From walking through the door at the Health and Fitness Expo to crossing the finish line, there is a certain excitement in the air that really gets you going. Crowd support along the route is strong and it offers fantastic views of Lake Erie and the neighborhoods." She goes on to say... "The race organizers do a great job keeping participants informed via Facebook, Twitter, emails and their website, and the support through the training group Facebook page is really encouraging for those times you need a little push. My absolute favorite part of the Cleveland Marathon Experience is the camaraderie…and maybe the downhill into the finish, courtesy of the Shoreway. The Challenge Series has been a great addition and I look forward to running CLE for many years to come."


Sarah Week 23


George Cerveny

Introducing the 24th Face of the 40 faces of the Cleveland Marathon!

George is one of our legacy runners but he was not always into running. In the mid 70’s, George was a heavy smoker, self-confessed couch potato and far from considering himself any sort of athlete. In fact, he could hardly climb the stairs without huffing. That was before he experienced a personal “moment of truth” that prompted him to get up off the couch, put on running shoes and shorts and start jogging around the neighborhood. Back then, the goal was to participate in the first Revco 10k run in downtown Cleveland. He’s been doing that ever since, and feeling better and better about his healthier lifestyle.

George joked in a 2002 interview, “Of course, every year it should be easier to beat my age group because the field (of runners) gets smaller and smaller”. But his earlier poor health was no laughing matter. “I quit smoking at about age 34. My kids were young and I was in awful shape. I’d been smoking for 20 years and I just made my mind up that I’d better get in shape.”

“Running is probably the best thing I could do for exercise. All you need is a good pair of shoes. You don’t even need a good pair of lungs, that will come. You just need to get out there and start running.”

George Cerveny



Veronica Phillips

Introducing the 25th Face of the 40 faces of the Cleveland Marathon, Veronica Phillips!

Veronica fell in love with running out of default; she hasn’t always been committed to running or addicted to running. It all started with her attempt to run from depression. With every foot stroke and every mile, she became less depressed and more confident. She became stronger, her self-image started to improve and as a result, her self-confidence spilled over into all aspects of her life & she now LOVES running! Because she loves this running thing, she spent more time and money developing her relationship with it and it paid off!

She talks about a monumental moment and says, "I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was running in a local Metro Park (Euclid Creek) and I was pulling myself up this “Monstrous Hill” and then it began. I had made it to the top without stopping. I defeated the hill, I really defeated the hill! As I completed the trail floating, powerful, and energetic with a slight tingle I thought “Is my foot asleep, am I light headed, do I have to go to the bathroom”. No I had just experienced my 1st runners high, I was now IN LOVE with running!"

And then it happened, her life changed and she was introduced to love like she had never experienced, MOMMYHOOD! And with this amazing little life (her son is now 6) came 68lbs. She was consumed with being a first-time mommy & just wanted to get it right. She was still fresh in my marriage so she wanted to get that right as well. Her health was the sacrifice and one day she said to herself, "If you want to be healthy, be healthy!" She joined a gym, a few running groups, surrounded herself with fitness minded individuals and starting eating better. She had to get back to running for her own sanity.

Until February 2011, she was sitting in grad class as a group of her classmates started talking about preparations for the Cleveland Marathon. She attempted to interject & they completely dismissed her saying “you’re not ready, if you’ve never run a half marathon then you should run a 5k first” and a few more negative comments. Well, on May 13, 2011 she completed her 1st half marathon with a time of 2:08. Not bad for a 1st timer, post baby, with 8 weeks to train. Veronica says, "I love when people doubt me! When that finisher medal hit my chest, I wanted more. I was hooked, now I am PASSIONATE about running! The Cleveland Marathon allowed me to believe in myself again. I meet some amazing people & it was my very 1st medal."

 Veronica Phillips.jpg



Jim Mackert

Introducing the 26th Face of the 40 faces of the Cleveland Marathon, Jim Mackert!
Written by Jim…
“Cleveland has always been special for me because the inaugural race in 1978 was my very first marathon running a time of 3:09:11 which led to qualifying for Boston in ’79! Now, 63 marathons and one ultra marathon later, my goal is 40 Cleveland Marathons at 80 years old!
The most memorable thing of the Cleveland Marathon is meeting so many good people and why they’re there. My wife and I plus our crew pass out marathon bibs at the Expo! We meet the most fascinating people and hear many great stories. On race day, I have had the honor running with many first time marathoners. I was told I was a great inspiration (I have to talk while running) :)
As my running days are winding down, I encourage people to exercise and feel better about themselves.
Personally, I have been blessed with good health and I thank the organizers and all the supporters who have done such an excellent job with the Cleveland Marathon!

Jim Mackert


Sarah Horbol

Introducing the 27th Face of the 40 faces of the Cleveland Marathon, Sarah Horbol!
Sarah is an avid runner, tracing her roots all the way back to 1995 when she joined the track team in 3rd grade! She ran competitively in both grade school and high school, and has continued running ever since to stay fit. In 2014, she decided it was time to face an unfamiliar distance: 26.2 miles! As a lifelong resident of Cleveland, the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon was her obvious race of choice. After a 3 hour, 9 minute, and 55 second journey through the Cleveland area, she had qualified for Boston at her very first attempt! She ran Boston in 2015, then geared up for her second Cleveland Marathon in May of this year. Despite the cold temperature, strong winds, and incessant precipitation, she ended up with a personal best time of 3:07:14! Cleveland certainly trains your mind and body to take on all of the elements, whether it is the heat or the snow! Since 2014, she has raced and finished 1st (for the female division) in several local races, varying in distance. Currently, she teaches 5th grade science in Avon, and resides in Rocky River.
Sarah says, "I love the Cleveland Marathon because of the familiarity of the course. It makes me feel comfortable to run through the neighborhoods of my hometown, especially Lakewood, because I regularly run through the area. I also like that it allows my family members to spectate from different locations because they live in Cleveland, too! My favorite experience at the event is the race itself! It is truly exciting and a fantastic journey through our beautiful city. No matter how many marathons I end up running throughout my life, the Cleveland Marathon will always be the one that is nearest and dearest to me :)"
Aww shucks, Sarah <3

Sarah Horbol Week 27


Stacie Knirsch

Introducing the 28th Face of the 40 faces of the Cleveland Marathon, Stacie Knirsch! We chose Stacie as this week's Face of the Cleveland Marathon because we LOVED her picture and we thought it was a pretty good fit for Valentine's Day this week.

Stacie has run the Cleveland half marathon three times, the full marathon twice, and the 10k once while she was carrying her daughter, Claire. Stacie was the girl in high school gym class that dreaded the days they went on the track to run a mile! She caught the running bug in her mid-twenties, and by the time she met her future husband (a former high school cross country runner), she was encouraging him to run distance races with her.

Stacie says "I love the Cleveland Marathon because it is my hometown race, and I look forward to seeing the faces of the Cleveland running community throughout race day. My favorite part of the marathon is ALWAYS when I hear John Adams and his drumming near the finish line--there is something exhilarating about knowing that the drumbeats (and the cheering) are for you!"

Stacie Week 28


Tara Taylor

Tara has been a runner for 20+ years now. In the early days, she would read runners world and see the advertisement for the Revco 10k. She hoped that one day she would be able to run that long and complete that race. Fast forward to 2003, she moved to Cleveland and was finally able to run the 10k that she had seen so many times in Runners World! It was now part of the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon events :)
She has now completed numerous 5k and 10k’s, 30 half marathons and 4 marathons! But her greatest running accomplishment came through her work as the director of the We Run This City Youth Marathon Program. This YMCA program trains Cleveland kids to run in one of the events of the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. There is an elite group of kids that she trained to run the Cleveland Marathon in 2012 & 2013. Tara says "This group (Nathan, London, Rashaan, Eddie, Clarence, William, Laroy and Jake) taught me the meaning of dedication, staying motivated and overcoming life’s daily obstacles. My smile in the finish line picture shows my happiness in their reaching a goal that would give them memories and a sense of accomplishment for life. There is no greater joy than that of sharing the love of running with a young person who has a lifetime of finish lines ahead of them."
"I applaud the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon for building the next generation of youth runners by helping to start, logistically planning for hundreds of kids to run their races and financially supporting this program for many years. Here’s to another 40 years of first class running events in Cleveland."

Tara 3