Updated: Sep 16
For more than a decade, the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & ½ Marathon has honored a group of people each year who have inspired others by their efforts to overcome obstacles or challenges to take part in our race or represented the event in a positive way
The official name of the program is the Lashutka Spirit Awards, named to honor former Columbus Mayor Greg Lashutka, who helped launch the Columbus Marathon in 1980.
We proudly introduce the following athletes as our 2022 Spirit Award winners:
Leslie Jordan, Westerville, OH – Leslie Jordan is no stranger to the Columbus Marathon, having run the full or half marathon 10 of the past 12 years – not including when she and her son ran their own 26.2 and donated to Nationwide Children's Hospital in 2020. She is a volunteer for Freedom a la Cart, a group that helps victims of human trafficking get back on their feet, and for Team Heart & Soul, a group that shares her love of running with kids and young adults with disabilities. Leslie serves as an incredible support system wherever she goes.
Jason Zarate, Dublin, OH – Jason, at age 54, tragically passed away on May 4, 2022, after being struck by a car. He was out for a run, his favorite pastime and one that helped him overcome numerous personal trials including losing approximately 120 lbs. over several years. Jason specialized in Information Technology (IT) in his working career and was a small business owner/entrepreneur in Dublin, Ohio. Jason was a dedicated member of the Columbus running community and is remembered for having an ongoing positive attitude and providing encouragement to other runners.
Josh Owens, Cincinnati, OH – Josh was 28 when he was diagnosed with heart failure, and he was not expected to make it to age 30. A father of five children, he could not perform basic tasks independently. With lots of support from his wife and family, he relearned how to do simple tasks like walking. Though he was never an athlete before his diagnosis, he made a goal to complete a 5K. He was instantly hooked on running after completing that first race and has since become an avid runner and an incredible encourager, coach, and mentor to countless people. Josh changed his own life and his own journey is changing countless others.
Erin Arnett, Hilliard, OH – Erin, known for being inspiring, encouraging and a link in the Columbus running community, has helped many people reach their own running goals, while crushing her own at the same time. Earlier this spring, she lost one of her close running friends, fellow Spirit Award Winner Jason Zarate. Erin helped bring the running community together to honor Jason and even handled multiple media interviews while dealing with the loss herself. She plans to run the Boston Marathon in 2023 in his honor.
Jase Headings, Cincinnati, OH – After discovering his passion for running during his sophomore season at Jonathan Alder, Jase went on to win an indoor state championship and set school records—amongst many other accomplishments. Jase committed to Cincinnati, only to have stress fractures derail his freshman outdoor season and Covid eliminate his sophomore season. Jase was then diagnosed with Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy, a serious heart condition that ended his athletic career just before his junior season. Fortunately, and thanks to a surgically implanted defibrillator in his chest, medication, and regular check-ups with doctors, Jase is still able to run. Jase is active in many facets; one being volunteering at cross country camps where he confided that he still had a goal of running a marathon someday. Jase is registered for the Columbus ½ Marathon this fall and training well.
Liz Sklaw, Bexley, OH– Liz is not only the mother of a 2022 Patient Champion, but a fierce advocate for all children receiving care at Nationwide Children's Hospital. After learning that her son, Ethan, had Pediatric Scleroderma, a chronic disease that will require lifelong care, Liz was inspired by his courage and determined that Ethan see he remained capable of anything. Alongside her professional responsibilities, family commitments, and Ethan's treatments, Liz became the top fundraiser for the Children's Champions fundraising program in 2021, bringing awareness to the program and highlighting not just the patients receiving care, but the incredible community of doctors, nurses, and staff at Nationwide Children's Hospital that provide this care. Liz ran the 1/2 Marathon in 2021 and committed to Ethan that she would run the full marathon if he became a Patient Champion. And this year, both are coming to fruition - Ethan will be one of the 2022 Patient Champions lining the course, and his mother will follow through on her promise to run the full marathon, modeling for Ethan the very thing she promised when he was diagnosed: that they can do anything!
Molly Bookmyer, Columbus, OH – A familiar presence on the Olentangy Trail, Molly Bookmyer is a true survivor. As a collegiate athlete, Molly was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor in her senior year, which ultimately led to two brain surgeries. She continued to run, but later that year suffered a seizure and required anti-seizure medications that impacted her running for the time being. After re-building her fitness, she married her husband Eric, only to learn months later that he had cancer. With Eric at her side on a bicycle, Molly continued training through his treatments, eventually winning the Cap City and Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus 1/2 Marathons and qualifying for the Olympic Trials, only to miss the race due to injury. Now working with an elite training group and training several months a year at altitude, Molly has lowered her full marathon PR to 2:32:53 and has qualified for the 2024 Olympic Trials. She continues to weather the challenges of being an elite female marathoner based in Columbus with joy, grit, and gratitude. Molly is registered to run the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus 1/2 Marathon this year as its reigning champion.
Becca Rohner and Carl Voellmecke, Columbus, OH – Becca Rohner and Carl Voellmecke, head coaches and coordinators of the Columbus Westside Running Club, have spent the past several years crafting a quiet, supportive legacy for a rapidly growing training group in Columbus. The CWRC, a free running and walking club on Columbus' west-side, offers weekly group runs and running events for all paces throughout the year. Becca and Carl are instrumental in the group's organization, infrastructure, and social media presence, and they ensure that each runner or walker is honored and valued throughout their training and racing journey. In 2022, CWRC served as a presenting sponsor for the Hilltop U.S.A. 5K, an event benefitting veterans on the Hilltop while providing an opportunity for community togetherness. The event raised more than $6,000 for veterans in 2021, and CWRC worked with sponsors to keep entry fees lower than traditional races to make the event more accessible to runners and walkers in various income brackets. True to their nature, Becca and Karl hand-delivered race numbers and t-shirts to CWRC club members, infusing the event with not only a personal touch, but the encouragement and excitement they bring to each CWRC event they host.
Malik Willoughby, Columbus, OH – A pillar of the Columbus community, Malik is an award-winning leader in various fields with more than 30 years’ experience as a practitioner of mindfulness, movement, and fitness; this includes a 200-hr certification as a yoga instructor, specializing in energy vinyasa flow. Currently employed with Columbus Recreation and Parks, Malik has spent over 25 years in recreation and wellness administration and management and has played a key role in the Highlight's Kids Run in years past. Notable marks of Malik's indefatigable commitment to his community are his role as co-founder of the Mansa Men mentoring program for youth and young men of color; his work with black men
with health conditions as part of the Impact 100 project; and his four-year membership in the local chapter of Black Men Run, culminating in his current role as Captain. Malik has been instrumental in organizing meaningful and meditative runs honoring Amaud Arbery and the Juneteenth holiday and continues to inspire and lead runners of all colors and backgrounds in the Columbus community. Malik has previously run the NCH 1/2 Marathon and will run his first full marathon in Columbus this fall.
Nigel Rich, Columbus, OH – Nigel is an outstanding example of how Nationwide Children's Hospital not only treats children, but empowers them to become successful adults, despite medical challenges they face. At age 12, doctors at Nationwide Children's Hospital diagnosed Nigel with a chronic, challenging medical condition. As a previous Patient Champion for the 2018 Columbus Marathon, Nigel was inspired by the marathon runners who offered him encouragement. The next year he decided to run the 1/2 marathon and completed it and this year he hopes to better his time. As a senior at Otterbein University studying nursing, Nigel hopes to someday help children—not only by giving them medical treatment but helping them see that they can still pursue their dreams, despite a medical diagnosis. He not only manages his condition well but shows that difficulties don’t need to prevent you from pursuing dreams. In fact, he has used those difficulties to shape his dreams into good for others.