Meet the 2022 Ambassadors - Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon

Meet the 2022 Ambassadors

Meet the 2022 Ambassadors

This years Blue Ridge Ambassador Team is a group of all kinds: enthusiasts to Iron Men, from Massachusetts to Florida, running every distance from the 10k to the Double. Chances are you’ll find someone in this group who speaks your language when it comes to getting inspired, hyped-up, and ready to tackle one of America’s Toughest Road Races.

Some have real heart and passion for this sport, some are thinkers and planners strategically plotting their race, and some are here for the joy of seeing you bring your best self to the course in April. We’ve asked them to share the moment they knew they’d become a runner. Check out their answers, and feel free to reach out and follow or connect with any of them on the social media handles they’ve listed. They’ll have some inspiration, tips, and maybe even a discount code for you.


Ali Shail (Daleville, VA; @ali_sshields), My earliest memory of running started with my dad. We went on a run at night during Christmas time and looked at all the lights. I have never forgotten how out of breath I was, yet at the same time I was so happy.

Angie Karas (West Alis, WI), The first time I said “ that didn’t feel like 10 miles” 😉

Colin McShane (Worcestor, MA; @Colinmcshane97), I knew I was runner the moment I realized what my body was capable of. From the atmosphere to the community of everyone enduring the same mission with different goals. Mind over Matter.

Dana Anders (Ossining, NY; @blisscoop), In my late teens after just moving to NY, I would go out for runs. Soon after it turned into doing races and then in 1999 my first marathon (Marine Corps.)

David Hylton (Richmond, VA; @realdavidhylton), In 2004, finishing my first race, a 4-miler, I had this moment of realizing how special this sport and the community was.

Rebekah Gletner (Huntington, WV; @RGletner), When it became my outlet and joy every day! When I realized running wasn’t something I do, it is actually apart of who I am.

Tyree Ellison (Roanoke, VA; @tmerun91), I would say that moment was in 2013 when I started attending local pub runs and when I was able to run a entire 5k in without having to stop and walk.

Jennifer St. Martin (Virginia Beach, VA; @jenneral_lee), When I got my first runner’s high at 16 years old.

Will Cole (Roanoke, VA; @Willnokerundad), I felt like I became a runner after my first half marathon in the fall of 2019 because it was the first time I really followed a training plan and went through the mental battle you will go theough as a runner.

Nathaniel Wooden (Cloverdale, VA; @nwooden89), The moment I knew I was a runner was in the 1st grade after watching “Forrest Gump”. I destroyed the mile run gym class.

Jennifer Messer (Riner, VA; @jen.messer), When I trained for and completed my first half marathon and thought to myself…I should sign up for a marathon.

Shannon LaRock (Chesterfield, VA; ), Seeing a sign on the interstate that said 13 miles from my destination and thinking, “I can run that!”

Ruthie Williams (Garner, NC; @Made_in_his_image_1), My first run ever was with a group of ladies who were training for a half marathon. They invited me to join them on a 4 mile run and I did pretty good considering I had never ran before! It was all she wrote ! I never stopped running 🙂

Michelle Carlsen (Blairs, VA; @chellcarlsen), For a long time I doubted myself as a runner but I decided to sign up for a half marathon. I remember preparing for my first double digit run while training. 10 miles later I had finished and felt on top of the world. That is the first time I thought ‘Wow, I really am a runner.’

Susan Haag (Jacksonville, FL; @susanhaag), That moment I knew I had become a runner? I forgot I was running!

Heather Jones (Yorktown, VA; @3thejones), Crossing the finish line for the Richmond Half marathon,9 years ago alongside my brother. I finished with a sub two and the feeling was amazing!


Lauren Jones (Salem, VA; @laurenrunsit), On Summer Solstice 2019 I parked in the McAfee Knob lot at 3AM and chased the sunrise to the top.

Rachel McClure (Moneta, VA; @rachels0880), When I was about 12, I beat both of my parents in a 5k race. (They are both strong runners) I think that is the moment I knew that I really was a runner!

Jordan Kennedy (Chesapeake, VA; @jordynmae22),


Adina Crawford (Germantown, MD;@deanietheyogini), When i signed up through Fleet Feet back years ago in their 5k program in Gaithersburg md

Anne Magee (Glen Allen, VA; @annecreates), During my first 5k ever, feeling the excitement from the crowd and the accomplishment of reaching my goal. I caught the bug!

Ben Wachter (Bumpass, VA; @_benzany), After my first 5k. I knew I could do better and got hooked trying to improve myself.

Dani Burton (Newport News, VA; @daniburton15), I crossed the finish line of my first half (Pittsburgh), said I’m never doing that again! A friend asked me to run a 5k, 10k and half consecutive 3 weeks later, and I did

Jess Wyatt (Bristol, TN; @jfrazz_running024), For me running has always been when I feel mostly like myself. The day I knew I was a runner was the day I crossed the finish line at the Bristol half and half marathon. Such love and support overcame me as I ran straight across that line. Now I have a passion and I have found my self through running no matter what shape size I am. I am a runner!

John Hykes (Hilliard, OH; @RunJohnBoyRun), I knew I’d become a runner about a month after I’d started running. My body didn’t really want to get out one Saturday but my heart and mind did. So I did.

John Pitzel (Lees Summit, MO; @slomojohn), I knew I’d become a runner when I started a spreadsheet to track the mileage on my 6 pairs of shoes.

Josh Shrader (Roanoke, VA; @jshrader), I realized I had become a runner when I signed up for my first official 5k in 2014. It was clear to see that I caught the running “bug” from that point on! Since then I have competed in nearly every race in and around the Roanoke Valley along with countless other races!

Julie Norris (Midlothian, VA; @midlorunner), Honestly, I don’t remember a time when I was not a runner. I run therefore I am 😉

Randy Birnschein (Evington, VA; @RunEatRalph), I was hooked from the first time I crossed the finish of a 5k back in 2008.

Ronnie Collins (Cana, VA; @Ronnie24317), When I signed up for my first 5k, 300 races ago 😁

Stanley Bryant (Portsmouth, VA; @stanley.bryant, blog, twitter), I knew that I had become a runner the first time I went for a run. #EveryoneRuns

Travis Perdue (Roanoke, VA; @trav1sp), At work one day (few years ago) someone (who didn’t know me) described my body as a “runner’s type).

Adam Shorter (Roanoke, VA; @AdamBomb540), When I lost 60lbs several years ago, ran my first 5k and kept signing up for more, even AFTER I said “well that was cool, not sure if I’ll race again” LoL

Nicole Cooper (Roanoke, VA; @thesportsbroad), When I found the Galloway method and I was able to complete a run without feeling like I had failed because I walked. I knew that I WAS a runner after that first Galloway run.

Crystal Buttimer (Warner Robins, GA; @Runninglawmama01), This is going to sound cliche but it was when I finished the full Blue Ridge marathon last year. (First time i did the full!) Its literally the hardest thing ive done and what Im most proud of!

Jessi Williams (Lynchburg, VA; @run_mama_run82) The first time I ran 4 miles without stopping & didn’t even realize it, runners high is real!


Brenda Morris (Hardy, VA; @rendasrunning), The feeling of the heart pounding and the smell of the great outdoors made me feel alive

Amy Terry (Salem, VA; @amylorena) When I started to plan my week around long runs — I knew I had become a runner. There was this new sense of gratitude for what my body was capable of doing and my mental health started to improve as a result.


Nick Nichols (Virginia Beach, VA; @leaveyourmark1107, Leave Your Mark), When I graduated college and said I’d never run again (college wrestler) then a few months past and realized I missed the miles and the enjoyment of running! Started again and now I run for fun!

Jess Glass (Roanoke, VA; @adventuresofbarbandwink), Running has been my sanity maintainer for as long as I can remember…the first day I felt achy from not running was the day I felt like a runner!

Sean Cook (Troutville, VA; @thumbsuprunners), When my name was drawn to run the Leadville 100 in 2015. It was a life changing event.

Lupe Luna (Mount Airy, NC; @gluna) Started running 30-35 miles weekly and loved it!!

Epic Challenge, Beautiful Views, A Music Festival, Slow-K Recovery Fun Run, and More!

Blue Ridge 2022 Inspirational Running Mix

This a collaborative playlist created by this year’s ambassadors. It’s full of songs that help them dig deep, power up, and soar over hills. Enjoy!

(Note: some explicit lyrics.)

The Wallflowers Headline Freedom First Down by Downtown Festival
2022 Blue Ridge Ambassador Program