Recipients of the Akron Marathon Ambassador Award have made significant contributions and lasting impacts to the sport of running. Learn more about these leaders of the industry below.

2008 Recipient

Kathrine Switzer will always be best known as the woman who challenged the all-male tradition of the Boston Marathon and became the first woman to officially enter and run the event. Kathrine’s career has included creating programs in 27 countries for over 1 million women that led to the inclusion of the women’s marathon as an official event in the Olympic Games, changing forever the face of sports, health and opportunities for women around the world.

2009 Recipient

Bill Rodgers is one of the most celebrated men’s distance runners in history. He is a four-time winner of the Boston and New York City marathons, and is widely regarded as one of the great marathoners of all time. Bill is a member of the National Track & Field Hall of Fame and the National Distance Running Hall of Fame and is one of four American men to have medaled in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, earning a bronze medal in 1975. He is a two-time RRCA Masters Runner of the Year and has won numerous awards in the running industry.

2010 Recipient

Amby Burfoot has been a lifelong runner who now combines his knowledge and love of running with his writing and editing skills. He is the executive editor of Runner’s World magazine. Amby won the Boston Marathon in 1968. He is an advocate of healthy living and successful author of many blogs, articles, and books.

2011 Recipient

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for Runner’s World and author of numerous books, including the best-selling Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. He has served as a trainer and coach for runners of all ages.

2012 Recipient

Craig Masback was the Chief Executive Officer of USA Track & Field (USATF), the national governing body for track and field, long distance running and race walking from 1997 to 2008. Masback has also provided network television commentary on various track and field events for NBC, CBS, ESPN and ABC over a 30-year broadcasting career, including serving as an analyst for NBC at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, which marked his fourth Olympic broadcast.

2013 Recipient

Creigh Kelley has done radio and TV color commentary at local and national events for the past 33 years, including the Half Marathon Championships, World Triathlon Championships, and the Summer Olympics in Sydney. He has also served as an executive committee member of the USATF Long Distance Running division and is a founding member and national board member of Running USA. He currently serves as the President of BKB, Limited.

2014 Recipient

Joan Benoit Samuelson won the gold medal the inaugural women’s marathon in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, establishing her as one of the leading role models for women in the running industry. She has been recognized as the Women’s Master Runner of the Year in 1998 from the Road Runner’s Club of America, and was a 1999 inductee into the International Women’s Sports Foundation Hall of Fame. Currently, she is a consultant to Nike and a clinician, conducting numerous running, health, and fitness clinics throughout the United States and the world.

2015 Recipient

Frank Shorter is the only American to hold two medals in the Olympic marathon event (Gold in 1972, Silver in 1976) and is credited with igniting the running boom in the United States in the Seventies. Shorter was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame in 1984 and the USA National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1989. In addition to an incredible running career, Shorter is the co-founder of the Bolder Boulder 10k, one of the largest races in the country and an event he won in 1981. He also helped establish the United States Anti-Doping Agency and served as its chairman from 2000 to 2003.

2016 Recipient

Meb Keflezighi is the only athlete in history to win the New York Marathon, the Boston Marathon and an Olympic Medal. From his arrival in America as a refugee from war-torn East Africa to his victorious finish at the emotionally charged 2014 Boston Marathon—now as a proud and patriotic American—Meb has secured not only his place in history, but also in the hearts and minds of millions. In between training, competing and making personal appearances, he oversees the MEB (Maintaining Excellent Balance) Foundation, which is committed to promoting youth health, education and fitness.

2017 Recipient

Kara Goucher is a professional runner, inspirational mentor, proud mother and loving wife. She graduated from the University of Colorado with three Division I NCAA championships in cross-country, the 3000m and 5000m. She is a two-time Olympian, an American record holder, World Championships silver medalist, and one of the most accomplished female distance runners of all time. In addition to her professional resume, Kara is an inspiration to people everywhere. She is an advocate for clean sport and women’s rights, and she connects with organizations and non-profits that are making a positive impact. Her partners include Oiselle, Skechers Performance, nuun and Zensah.

2018 Recipient

Deena Kastor is one of the most accomplished distance runners in American history, and currently holds eight American records in distances ranging from the 5k through the marathon. A three-time Olympian, Kastor won bronze in the marathon during the 2004 Athens games – America’s first Olympic medal in the marathon in twenty years. In the USA Championships, she is a three-time marathon winner, a five-time 10k champion, and a nine-time road champion ranging in distances between 8k and 15k. In addition to her Olympic bronze, internationally, Kastor is a two-time silver World Cross Country medalist and won the 2005 Chicago Marathon and the 2006 London Marathon. Deena set five world masters records in the 10k, 15k, 10 mile, 20k and half marathon distances in 2014 alone. Her new book “Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory” was released in April and gives readers a look inside the mind of an elite athlete and how the power of positivity can give anyone a competitive edge.

2019 Recipient

Desiree Linden secured her victory in the 2018 Boston Marathon in a time of 2:39:55. She finished more than four minutes ahead of the second-place finisher and became the first American woman to win the prestigious Boston race since 1985. Linden, sponsored by Brooks, has an extensive running career that includes four top five finishes in her six Boston appearances on Patriot’s Day and top five finishes in both the Chicago and the NYC Marathons. Linden also finished among the top ten in the marathon at the 2016 Olympic Games held in Rio.

2022 Recipient

Since founding the Akron Marathon in 2003, Steve and Jeannine Marks have grown the Akron Marathon Charitable Corporation into a three-part race series that has generated $133 million in economic impact for the Greater Akron community, celebrated more than 170,000 finishers, and raised $6 million for local charities. In celebration of its 20th year, Steve and Jeannine were honored as our 2022 Ambassadors.

2023 Recipient

Keira D’Amato has emerged as a remarkable long-distance runner and a rising star in the running world. Her exceptional achievements, such as her qualification for the 2021 Olympic Trials, her record-breaking performance as the American Marathon record holder with a time of 2:19:12 at the 2022 Houston Marathon and most recent record-breaking of the American Half Marathon record with a time of 1:06:39 at the Gold Coast Half Marathon, have solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with in the running community.